What Are Ground Techniques + Why Are They Helpful?

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How To Use Grounding Techniques To Manage Distress

BY NATALIE KATALINIC

There are times when our distress overwhelms us – like when we wake disoriented from a nightmare, or when we’re caught off guard by life changing news – and in moments like this grounding techniques can act as a circuit breaker.

Your breath can also ground you in the present

Your breath can also ground you in the present

By encouraging a connection to the present, grounding techniques can interrupt intense emotional experiences and stop us from overthinking whatever it is that’s making us upset.

Many grounding techniques use the 5 senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste) to encourage a connection to the present, others are distraction-based and use specific tasks to keep a present focus.

To give you an idea, some examples of grounding techniques include:

• Sit upright and put your feet firmly on the ground, notice how the various contact points feel
• Take a shower/bath
• Sing along to music
• Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell
• Think of as many animals as you can, starting with each letter of the alphabet
• Count backwards from 1000, taking away consecutive numbers (1000, 999, 997, 994…)
• Clean out a drawer in your bathroom or kitchen, or organise a section of your wardrobe

If you tend to become easily overwhelmed by strong emotions, grounding objects – a physical object that you can keep discreetly on you to help connect you to the present (e.g. a stone) – can be another helpful way to keep connected to the present. If you notice you’re becoming distressed, hold your grounding object in your hand, and connect with how it feels in your hand (weight, smoothness, temperature, etc). You can combine holding the grounding object with other grounding techniques to maximise your ability to stay present, and feel empowered as you overcome emotions that previously overwhelmed you.

Natalie is a warm and compassionate registered psychologist with a Masters of Clinical Psychology degree who is experienced in various evidence-based therapeutic modalities, including Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). She specialises in working with adults and teens experiencing major depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders, borderline personality disorder, grief and loss, identity concerns, relationship difficulties, and stressful life events in general.


 

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