Why are Grounding Techniques so important? I used to put little importance into learning them, because I felt like it was a waste of time, when I needed to work on uncovering trauma and processing memories. Wellllll…doing trauma work kicks up trauma disorder symptoms, and if you can’t keep those symptoms “in check” … you can’t do the work.
Grounding Techniques are great because they assist with CPTSD symptoms (e.g. flashbacks, hypervigilance, panic, intrusive thoughts/feelings), and dissociation symptoms (e.g. trances, timeloss, uncontrolled switching).
Grounding helps us be present in the moment, connected to the here and now. Ugh, why would I want to do that, when I’m in so much emotional pain all the time? Well, that’s exactly what happens when you are not grounding. By allowing symptoms like avoidance and dissociation to be our main coping strategies, it only reinforces feelings from the past (like the emotional pain). In fact, surviving day-by-day casts a shadow of doubt on our future. When even the future looks so bleak, no wonder we can’t fathom connecting to the here and now!
Increasing our present-awareness actually gives us a defense against the symptoms and control back over our lives. There are loads of techniques out there that help people. The trick is finding the ones that work for you (and which ones work/don’t work for each part). Here are some grounding strategies people find helpful:
- Anchors – These are items in/around your home (or other place you spend a lot of time–school, work, etc). Find things that are neutral or pleasing to you. Hear them, touch them, connect to these things in the present. If this is your first time finding anchors, slowly walk around your house, from room to room, and find at last 3 items that you can choose as anchors. It’s especially helpful if these are items that were not around during your trauma. Eventually, you will be able to identify anchors in each room, so that no matter where you are, you have something that can ground you to the present. Here is a personal example of anchors for me:
I walk into my living room after a long day of work. I take off my winter coat and hang it up on a hook. I take off my purse and hang that up as well. It was a very stressful day at work, and something that happened on the job kicked up overwhelming stress and shame. I feel so stupid, I hate what I said, and I wish I could just erase the whole day. Instantly, one of my child parts is crying, and another part wants to engage in self-harm due to the shame. I feel the body’s heart rate pick up, and I realize a 3rd part is headed into an anxiety attack.
“Hey guys, I know it was a stressful day, but it’s over now. The only thing we need to do now is relax.” I take my parts away from the door and show them our living room. “I know some of you feel like you’re stuck in trauma time, but that time is over, see?”
I point to our large flat-screen TV. “It’s 2019. We didn’t have a TV like that when we [at unsafe place], right?”
Then, I sit down on the living room couch and point to a big blown-up photograph on the wall which is of the body eating breakfast outside in Austria. “Oh, look! That’s Salzburg! We went to see where Sound of Music was made. Remember what Austria was like?”
If parts who are struggling didn’t go to Austria, we might share the experience with them in detail. Or, we might try a different anchor: “Do you like this bracelet? It’s a grounding bead bracelet we made at Sheppard Pratt. Do you want to help me make a new one? Which color should we use?”
Some of the things, like the grounding beads, and other art supplies, have a special place in our living room, so we know that’s a good “grounding/anchor spot” we can always count on being there.
2. Grounding Bag or Grounding Kit – We keep a clear makeup bag like this in our purse. This makes them visible and easy to access in a moment of need. Inside, we have a conglomerate of items that different parts find soothing, like:
- Burt’s Bees Lip Balm (the tingling sensation is sooo grounding)
- Tea Bags
- A few colored pens (pink, purple) if parts want to write in our journal
- Lavender scented hand lotion
- Essential oil (with roller) I can roll on my skin if I need to smell something calming (we link cinnamon)
- Fidget spinner
- Silly putty
- Grounding stone (a smooth river rock)
3. Soooo many more ideas… There are just way too many for me to go on about. Beauty After Bruises blog has an excellent post about Grounding and gives a nice list of ideas for you to try out.
My last bit of advice…is keep a list! It can be overwhelming to be introduced to so many new things. As you try skills that work for you, keep a list in your journal to easily flip to when you need a refresher.
Here’s to a happy, in-the-moment, New Year!