Grounding Techniques for Trauma Triggers and Panic
Grounding techniques are simple strategies to help you temporarily detach from emotional pain. They help you focus on something outside of yourself by creating distractions and a “safe place”. Grounding techniques can be centering and help you bring yourself back to the present, in reality, and in your body again.
Grounding can help you gain a sense of control over your emotions and keep yourself safe. They can be useful if you’re either feeling overwhelmed with emotions or if you’ve numbed out emotionally, which both are common struggles for people with PTSD or Panic Disorder, for example.
Grounding is different than relaxing in that it’s more active and specifically meant for times when feeling extreme negative feelings. They can be helpful for people that are vulnerable to self-harm behaviors or other self-destructive behaviors. Think of it as a way to ‘self-care’ instead of ‘self-harm’.
3 Types of Grounding:
1. Mental Grounding – focusing your mind
- Describe your environment in detail (objects, colors, textures, shapes, numbers). “The pillows are blue, the walls are grey, the table is wooden, there is a window, etc.” You can do this one anywhere; whether you’re on the subway, in your room, or outside.
- Describe an everyday activity in great detail
- Try a “Safe Statement”: “My name is____________. I’m safe now. I’m located at ________. I’m in the present and not the past.”
- Read out loud.
- Imagery. Imagine changing the channel in your mind or creating a buffer between you and your pain or anxiety.
2. Physical Grounding – focusing your five senses
- Touch various objects around you. Notice the textures, weight, temperature, color.
- “Grounding object”. Find a soothing object to carry with you and touch when you feel triggered.
- Focus on your breathing. Notice exhales and inhales. Repeat a pleasant word such as “safe” or “relax”
- Notice your body. The weight on the chair. Your feet on the floor. Get connected to your body and its place in the world.
- Run water over your hands
- Eat something while being mindful of the taste and texture in your mouth
- Stretch, walk, jump.
3. Soothing Grounding – talking to yourself kindly and with self-compassion
- Say kind statements as if you’re talking to a small child. “You’re going through a hard time, but it’s ok. You’ll get through this.”
- Think of your favorite things. (Colors, seasons, foods, songs)
- Say a coping statement such as “This will pass” or “I can handle this.”
- Think of things you’re looking forward to
- Picture the people you care about
- Remember a safe place and focus on everything about it.
Grounding can work! Remember, it’s like practicing any other skill. Pick out a few to practice when you’re calm so that they are more accessible when you need them. Notice the ones you like the best, which resonate with you, or make up your own. Practice often, prepare in advance, and don’t give up!
Information from “Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse” by Lisa Najavits