What are Grounding Techniques?

Grounding Techniques are strategies that can bring an overactive nervous system down. They are different ways of calming a nervous system.

There are different types of grounding techniques. Not all of these work for everyone. You may need to try a number to figure out what works or combine a few of them to help to calm your nervous system down. There are some techniques that fit into more than one of these categories.

You may need to pick out some that work for different situations. When you are dealing with trauma from childhood experiences it may be more effective to match the grounding technique to the age you were when the trauma first happened or the needs that were neglected during the trauma (such as love, safety, stability, comfort, validation, and acceptance). For example, if you have a trauma trigger that is connected to your 7 year old self, a grounding technique that would be comforting to a 7 year old may be more effective than something that an adult is more likely to do (wrapping yourself in a blanket may be better than exercising indoors).

Grounding techniques can be used to bring someone from a hyperarousal state back into their window of tolerance. Some may work for people in a hypoarousal state. They are an essential resource for trauma recovery. It can be good to have a card with the grounding techniques that work best for you in different situations, so you can reference it when you are not able to think straight and enable yourself to get back on track.

I have a separate blog post with examples of the different types of grounding techniques.

Observation Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by focusing on identifying and describing objects in the environment. For example, you may pick an object in the room or outside the window and start to describe it in different ways until your system starts to calm down.

Somatic Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by focusing on sensations and/or movements in the body. For example, you may focus on the feeling of your feet pressing onto the floor.

Breathing Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by focusing on the breath, control of the breath, and/or sensation of breathing. For example, you may focus on prolonging (slowing) the exhale as you are breathing.

Distraction Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by distracting yourself from what is causing the nervous system to be overactivated. For example, you may watch funny Youtube videos.

5 Senses Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by using your senses to calm the nervous system. For example, you may focus on the taste of a candy or the scent of a particular scent.

Self-Soothe Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by soothing the nervous system through activities that are comforting to your system. For example, you wrap yourself in a soft blanket and focus on how soft the blanket feels around you.

Present Moment Techniques are grounding techniques that help to calm the nervous system by alerting it to the present moment during trauma triggers. When you are triggered by trauma the past comes back and feels like the present, so reminding yourself what the present moment is can calm the nervous system. For example, you may name today’s date and location.

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