I received a handout titled Grounding: A Coping Skill for Clients With Emotional Pain in one of my classes. Instead of summarizing the worksheet I will transfer the worksheet onto this blog by hand. I think these skills are extremely helpful and I do some of them myself and they work wonderfully. I hope you can try some out too!
“Three major ways of grounding will be described-mental, physical, and soothing. “Mental” means focusing your mind; “Physical” means focusing on your senses (e.g., touch, hearing); and “soothing” means talking to yourself in a very kind way. You may find that one type works better for you, or all types may be helpful. Note that grounding is different from relaxation training or meditation. In grounding, it is essential to keep your eyes open the entire time and to keep talking out loud. These strategies keep you focused on the outside world.
- Describe your environment in detail using all your senses. For example, “The walls are white, there are five pink chairs, there is a wooden bookshelf against the wall…” Describe objects, sounds, textures, colors, smells, shapes, numbers, and temperature. You can do this anywhere. For example, on the subways: “I’m on the subway. I’ll see the river soon. Those are windows. This is the bench. The metal bar is silver. The subway map has four colors…”
- Play a “categories” game with yourself. Try to name “types of dogs,” “Jazz musicians,” “States that begin with “A”,” “cars,” “TV shows,” “writers,” “sports,” “songs,” or “cities.”
- Do an age progression. If you have regressed (mentally) to a younger age (e.g, 8 years old), you can slowly work your way back up (e.g, “I’m now 9” “I’m now 10,” “I’m now 11″…) until you are back to your current age.
- Describe an everyday activity in great detail. For example, describe a meal that you cook (e.g., “First I peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters, then I boil the water; I make an herb marinade of oregano, basil, garlic, and olive oil…”).
- Imagine. Use an image: Glide along on skates away from your pain; change the TV channel to get a better show; think of a wall as a buffer between you and your pain.
- Say a safety statement. “My name is ____; I am safe right now. I am in the present, not the past. I am located in _____; the date is _____.”
- Read something saying each word to yourself. Or read each letter backwards so that you focus on the letters and not on the meaning of the words.
- Use humor. Think of something funny to jolt yourself out of your mood.
- Count to 10 or say the alphabet, very s..l..o..w..l..y.
- Run cool or warm water over your hands.
- Grab onto your chair as hard as your can.
- Touch various objects around you: a pen, keys, your clothing, the table, the walls. Notice textures, colors, materials, weight, temperature. Compare objects you touch: Is one colder? Lighter?
- Dig your heels into the floor-literally “grounding” them. Notice the tension centered in your heels as you do this. Remind yourself that you are connected to the ground.
- Carry a grounding object in your pocket-a small object ( a small rock, clay or silly puddy, ring, piece of cloth or yarn, a stress ball) that you can touch whenever you feel triggered (anxious, panicky, etc.)
- Jump up and down in a gentle way. Only coming off the ground a couple inches.
- Use all five senses. For example: notice five things around you that are a certain color, notice four things you can physically touch, notice three things that you hear, notice two things that you can feel, notice one thing that you can smell. They don’t have to go in this order; you can mix them up.
- Notice your body: The weight of your body in the chair; wiggling your toes in your socks; the feel of your back against the chair. You are connected to the world.
- Stretch. Extend your fingers, arms, or legs as far as you can; roll your head around.
- Clench and release your fists.
- Walk slowly, noticing each footstep, saying “left” and then “right,” whit each step.
- Eat something, describing the flavors in detail to yourself.
- Focus on your breathing noticing each inhale and exhale. Repeat a pleasant word to yourself on each inhale (e.g., a favorite color or a soothing word such as “safe” or “easy”).
- Say kind statements as, as if you were talking to a small child. For example, “You are a good person going through a hard time. You’ll get through this.”
- Think of favorites. Think of your favorite color, animal, season, food, time of day, or TV show.
- Picture people you care about (e.g., your children), and look to photographs of them.
- Remember the words to an inspiring song, quotation, or poem that makes you feel better, such as the Serenity Prayer.
- Remember a safe place. Describe a place that you find very soothing (perhaps the beach or mountains, or a favorite room); focus on everything about that place-the sounds, colors, shapes, objects, and textures.
- Say a coping statement. “I can handle this.” “This feeling will pass.”
- Plan out a treat for yourself, such as a piece of candy, a nice dinner, or a warm bath.
- Think of things you are looking forward to in the next week, perhaps time with a friend, going to a movie, or going on a hike.
- Create a cassette tape of a grounding message that you can play when needed; consider asking your therapist or someone close to you to record it if you want to hear someone else’s voice.
- Think about why grounding works. Why might it be that by focusing on the external world, you become more aware of an inner peacefulness? Notice the methods that work for you-why might those be more powerful for you than other methods?
- Don’t give up.
Try to just pick 1 or 2 things from each category of grounding and see how they work for you. You could always refer pack to this post to try new ones. I have about 11 techniques that work for me; every one will use different techniques for different reasons.
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.