What do you do when you feel anxious or stressed out? If you’re like a large portion of the population, you turn to some unhealthy coping mechanisms for relief. Perhaps you binge-watch television or turn to highly processed foods. Maybe you turn to retail therapy or even mind-altering substances to take the edge off.
These things may temporarily alleviate your nerves, but they aren’t a helpful or long-term solution. This is especially true if you try using them to minimize mental health disorder symptoms. Developing healthy coping skills is crucial if you want to manage your mental illness.
Grounding techniques are one of these healthy ways to relieve troubling thoughts, difficult emotions, or symptoms of a mental health disorder. What are some examples of grounding techniques, and who do these strategies help?
What are grounding techniques?
Grounding techniques are methods that help relieve the effects of mental illness, trauma, or emotional distress. They incorporate the five senses to bring you back to reality or “ground” you in the present. Using grounding techniques pulls you out of the past and distracts you from overwhelming thoughts.
Who do grounding techniques help?
Grounding techniques are mainly used when working with people who experienced trauma. Individuals with trauma-related mental health disorders, like post-traumatic stress disorder, may experience intense dissociative symptoms. These include flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts or memories, and difficult emotions. Grounding techniques are helpful tools for escaping the downward spiral of trauma responses and returning to the present.
Although people who experienced trauma are the primary candidates for grounding techniques, anyone can benefit from them whether they struggle with their mental health or not. They are a helpful reminder to come back to the real world when someone finds themselves mentally stuck.
What are some grounding techniques you can use?
Mental health professionals offer many approaches to ground yourself when feeling distressed. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration outlines a wide range of grounding techniques.1 One example of a grounding process could be:
- Place your feet on the ground.
- Say the day and time out loud.
- Take a series of slow, deep breaths.
- Point out a few things you can see in the immediate vicinity.
- Remind and reassure yourself that you are in a safe place.
Another example of grounding techniques involves the 5-4-3-2-1 method often used for individuals with bipolar disorder or other anxiety-related disorders.2 This approach asks you to use your five senses to find and state:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can touch
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
Breathing exercises are another important part of grounding techniques. Taking slow, deep breaths is one of the easiest ways to bring yourself into the present and focus on the here and now.
When grounding techniques aren’t enough
Sometimes self-guided grounding techniques are not enough for people who haven’t received mental health treatment before. While they are a useful way to practice returning to reality, they won’t be useful for long if you don’t have a baseline level of awareness and mental health management.
Seeking professional help for your mental health may be necessary if you find yourself struggling to function in daily life. Programs like those at the Pasadena Villa Psychiatric Treatment Network are an important part of learning to live with a mental health disorder.
Would you like to find out whether mental health treatment is right for you? Please reach out to us at 877-845-5235 to speak with an admissions specialist today!
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). Trauma-Informed Care in Behavioral Healthcare Services.
- University of Rochester Medical Center. (2018). 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety.