This final article about grounding tools and techniques introduces you to my favourite grounding tool! It also looks at mindful distraction and self-soothing.
All of us could sometimes do with a little grounding and all grounding techniques are designed to do one thing: to help us to connect with the present in a focussed way which gives both our body and mind a chance to calm themselves. Once our body feels a little calmer, it sends a signal to our nervous system and brain that there isn’t an actual threat present. There is a sense of “finding a safe place”. Grounding techniques can be done anywhere and at any time.
You can use them when you:
- Feel overwhelmed
- Experience a trigger
- Feel panic or anxiety
- Have distressing emotions
- Have flashbacks or intrusive memories
- Feel dissociated
- Have the urge to self-harm
The aim is to help you feel calmer and more in control.
1. Mindful distraction
The world “mindful “ is important here because we sometimes use distraction as a way of escaping a situation – so it is important if we use distraction to return to the issue later and address it.
- Distraction through music, watching TV, or drawing
- Talking to a friend or loved one
- Playing with or simply interacting with a pet
2. Self-soothing as a way to comfort and calm
- Repeat a favourite saying to yourself over and over. One example might be what is called the Serenity Prayer. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Or simply “This too will pass.”
- Say kind statements, 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.”
- Picture people or animals you care about (your children, your partner, your grandparents, your dog or cat; and look at photographs of them if you have them to hand).
- Describe to yourself a place that you find very soothing (perhaps the beach or mountains, or a favorite room); focus on everything about that place—the sounds, smells, colours, shapes, objects, textures.
- Plan out a safe treat for yourself, a nice dinner, or a warm bath
3. My favourite grounding tool
This takes a bit of practice so that you can do it without thinking – the first time you do it it may take 20 seconds but after a while, it can be done in just 2-3 seconds. Alternatively, you may want to extend it so that it lasts several minutes. It begins with wiggling your toes, which apparently is taken from the experience of astronauts – when they are trying to work out where their body is in weightless gravity, they start by wiggling their toes! It moves onto good solid physically grounding of the feet, extends up through the whole body, attention is then forced outwards and finally a lovely soothing ending.
(Thanks to mentor Michael Gavin for this!)
- Wiggle your toes
- Notice the pressure of weight on the soles of your feet
- Let your spine lengthen so that you rise to your full stature
- (this usually triggers a deep breath, if not, take a deeper breath anyway)
- While still breathing slowly and easily, take a deliberate look around, turning your head and neck,
- Letting your gaze pass over what is in front of you
- Noting the shapes and colours that you see, and naming them to yourself
- Turn your attention inward to your belly and see if you can feel some warmth there
- Think kindly thoughts towards yourself and your warm belly. It has been suggested that you imagine you see a curled fawn nestled there – think Bambi! Remember as vividly as you can a time when you felt calm and at ease and contented
- Continue breathing.
To continue with this exercise if you choose:
- Tune in to the sounds that you can hear in your immediate environment
- And as far out as your listening will reach
- Let your awareness expand to see if it has any limit.
- Become curious about your mental activity -thoughts, images and impressions
- Acknowledge the presence of your Self, however you understand that.
Need some advice and support?
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in this article, or indeed any other emotional issues or life challenges and would like to talk things over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!