Several months ago, I accompanied my good friend Wanda for an eye exam. During the procedure, the doctor shined very bright lights into her eyes. In one second, the adult Wanda “went away.”
The trigger was one Wanda had never experienced before, and it took several weeks for her to process the trauma. During those weeks, it was hard for her to focus, and she frequently zoned out. But since processing that experience, she’s learned hope to cope with the bright lights that are part of her regular eye exams. And the answer is using grounding techniques to stay in the here and now.
When you are overwhelmed with emotional pain, you need a way to detach so that you can gain control over your feelings and stay safe. Grounding “anchors” you to the present and to reality. Grounding techniques are helpful for those who have PTSD, experience dissociation (zoning out), rage, or feel overwhelmed by their emotions.
Use grounding when you feel triggered, enraged, dissociating, are having a craving, or when ever your emotional pain elevates above 6 (on a 0-10 scale). Grounding is active and focuses on distraction techniques.
Mental grounding: Create categories: types of fruits, names that begin with H, breeds of dogs. Describe an activity in great detail, such as how to create a recipe or how to do something with a number of steps. Read something or recite something from memory. Do simple math problems.
Physical grounding: Rub your hands together and focus on the warmth. Hold a cold can of soda. Count the charms on a bracelet and focus on the textures and shapes. Touch objects around you and name them. Rub your fingers over a smooth stone.
Soothing grounding: Picture yourself in a safe place. Think about the people you love. Think about something you’re looking forward to. Think about an accomplishment you’re proud of. Sing a favorite song.
Grounding needs practice. Don’t give up. The brain CAN be redirected away from the traumatic memory as you learn to refocus.
What grounding techniques have you found to be effective?