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Grounding Techniques


Man practicing grounding techniques by walking barefoot in the sand




Grounding techniques are exercises that help people focus on the present moment to distract themselves from feeling anxious. People who experience too much anxiety due a traumatic event may experience, flashbacks, negative emotions, unwanted memories and dissociation.    For example, being in a life-threatening situations, having a serious injury, being sexual abused etc can produce a lot of anxiety in someone. When situations like this happen, people find grounding techniques to be helpful when managing their intrusive thoughts, flashbacks and negative emotions. 


WHAT IS GROUNDING?


Grounding are strategies used to help individuals who are experiencing anxiety reconnect with reality. (Riyanto, Sulistiowati, & Imelisa, 2021). 



CATEGORIES OF GROUNDING


There are different grounding methods that can help reduce anxiety in people that are having panic attacks, or dissociating or having flashbacks. Some grounding strategies will work better for others in certain situations which is why it is encouraged to figure out what works best for you (Farrell & Taylor, 2017). There are many types of grounding methods but for the purpose of this blog I will be only talking about the physical, psychological and soothing grounding techniques. 



PHYSICAL GROUNDING


Physical grounding is when you bring your attention to what is happening to you either physically in your body or in your surroundings. For example, when you put your hands under water, you will be focusing on the water’s temperature, and how it feels on your fingertips, palms and the back of your hands. Some of the advantages to physical grounding include enhanced blood circulation, stress alleviation, decreased swelling in body parts, and overall physical well-being. (Menigoz et al., 2020). 


5 Best Physical Grounding Practices: 


  1. Running your hands under warm or cold water or walking barefoot. 

  2. Touching and feeling different objects near you– notice their textures, size, and shape.

  3. Squeeze your fists tightly and slowly release your hands.

  4. Carry a small meaningful object in your pocket, it can be a ring, or small rock someone gave you that means something to you. 

  5. Stretch your body – slowly extend your arms, legs and feet.


MENTAL GROUNDING


Another category of grounding is mental grounding. Mental grounding aims to shift your attention away from distressing thoughts or emotions and promote a sense of stability, calmness, and clarity. This is a way of redirecting thoughts back to the present reality.


3 Best Mental Grounding Practices: 


Describe your surroundings – Look at your surroundings and describe everything that you see. Use your 5 senses to name everything you see. For example, name 5 things you see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and one thing you can taste. 



  1. List as many items as you can in any three categories. Categories include movies, animals and colors (eg. Genre of Music – Classic, R&B, Rock). 

  2. Picture your happy place. This is a peaceful place, that you can visualize in your head that brings you a sense of happiness and safety.

  3. Use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique – Use each of the 5 senses to take in the details of your surroundings in the present moment. 




SOOTHING GROUNDING


The final type of grounding is soothing. You can use these techniques to comfort yourself in times of emotional distress. Research indicates that engaging in soothing exercises can reduce depression, and anxiety (Taylor, Lyubomirksy & Stein, 2017).


5 Best Soothing Grounding Practices: 


  1. Say positive affirmations to yourself – help reduce the negative thoughts you tell yourself.

  2. Think of things you look-forward to doing in the future– Thinking about things you look forward to makes you feel excited and happy, which also reduces stress. Thinking about your next trip week has helped people remain positive during difficult times. 

  3. Enjoy your favorite treat – eat your favourite snack.

  4. Think about people who are important to you – visualize the people you care about and positive memories you had with them. You can even look at a photograph of them while doing this. 

  5. Listen to quotes that inspire you or your favorite song lyrics- this could help you put you in a better mood and not make you feel so alone.



Overall grounding can be an effective tool but it is only effective when it is practiced over and over again. It is also a tool that requires you to practice in different situations. Think of grounding like a toolbox, not every tool in your toolbox will be useful in every situation just like these grounding tools. In order for you to figure out what grounding tool will work for you and in what situation, it will require you to test it out in different situations. Keep in mind not every grounding tool will work the same for every person.


References: 


Farrell, D., & Taylor, C. (2017). The Teaching and Learning of Psychological Trauma--A Moral Dilemma. Psychology Teaching Review, 23(1), 63-70.


Riyanto, D., Sulistiowati, N. M. D., & Imelisa, R. (2021, December). THE EFFECT OF GROUNDING TECHNIQUE THERAPY TOWARDS Reducing THE Anxiety LEVEL OF STUDENTS IN THE FINAL LEVEL OF MASTER OF NURSING JENDERAL ACHMAD YANI UNIVERSITY CIMAHI. In International Seminar on Global Health (Vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 27-40).


Schab, L. M. (2021). The anxiety workbook for teens: Activities to help you deal with Anxiety & Worry. New Harbinger Publications. 


Gottschalk MG, Domschke K. Genetics of generalized anxiety disorder and related traits. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017 Jun;19(2):159-168. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2017.19.2/kdomschke. PMID: 28867940; PMCID: PMC5573560.


Kotov, Roman & Gámez, Wakiza & Schmidt, Frank & Watson, David. (2010). Linking "Big" Personality Traits to Anxiety, Depressive, and Substance Use Disorders: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological bulletin. 136. 768-821. 10.1037/a0020327.


Dong J, Xiao T, Xu Q, Liang F, Gu S, Wang F, Huang JH. Anxious Personality Traits: Perspectives from Basic Emotions and Neurotransmitters. Brain Sci. 2022 Aug 27;12(9):1141. doi: 10.3390/brainsci12091141. PMID: 36138877; PMCID: PMC9496710.


Menigoz W, Latz TT, Ely RA, Kamei C, Melvin G, Sinatra D. Integrative and lifestyle medicine strategies should include Earthing (grounding): Review of research evidence and clinical observations. Explore (NY). 2020 May-Jun;16(3):152-160. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2019.10.005. Epub 2019 Nov 14. PMID: 31831261.


Taylor CT, Lyubomirsky S, Stein MB. Upregulating the positive affect system in anxiety and depression: Outcomes of a positive activity intervention. Depress Anxiety. 2017 Mar;34(3):267-280. doi: 10.1002/da.22593. Epub 2017 Jan 6. PMID: 28060463; PMCID: PMC7266488.



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