What Are Grounding Exercises?

Grounding exercises are practices that can help you manage your trauma symptoms when they occur. To feel grounded is to feel centered. These strategies are good to use when you are struggling to help prevent your symptoms from getting worse. It is also helpful to practice grounding exercises when you are not experiencing symptoms because this will help you prepare and be ready for when the symptoms happen.

What are grounding exercises? Grounding exercises are self-help practices that can help you manage your trauma symptoms when they occur. Grounding exercises help you to focus on the here and now. By focusing on the here and now, you can distract yourself from what is going on in your mind.

Why are grounding exercises useful?

Grounding exercises help you to focus on the here and now. By connecting to the present moment and with your environment, you can distract yourself from what is going on in your mind. These exercises are useful not only for people who suffer from trauma and also for people with other mental conditions.

These self-help strategies can help with symptoms such as:

  • Flashbacks 
  • Overwhelming memories
  • Dissociation
  • Strong emotions
examples of grounding exercises: deep breathing, hold a piece of ice, listen to nature sounds, take a mindful walk, enjoy a drink or some food

Examples of grounding exercises

Many grounding exercises engage one or more of your senses (Sight, Smell, Sound, Touch, and Taste) in order to ground you. If it is relevant to you, you may want to match and use a grounding exercise that focuses on a certain sense, such as smell, when you are triggered by a specific smell.

There are many different types of grounding exercises. Here are some examples:

  • Sight: Visualization/Guided imagery, Describing items around you, etc.
  • Smell: Smell something pleasant or strong (i.e., perfume, essential oils, food, etc.) etc.
  • Sound: Listen to music, comforting sounds, focus on a sound you hear around you (i.e., a clock ticking), etc.
  • Touch: Somatosensory (physical sensation) techniques: toe wiggling, clenching fists, hot or cold compress, petting a pet, etc.
  • Taste: Mindfully eating something, eating a strong flavored food, etc.
  • Other/Mixed: A walking meditation, State what you observe or feel in your body, etc.

These techniques should help distract you from the original trigger and what is going on in your mind. Making them part of your toolkit can be very useful when symptoms occur. You can read about some other tools on our post on managing during quarantine.

Check-in, take a moment to ground yourself. Take a deep breath. (Inhale slow. Hold. Exhale slow.). Notice any sensations in your body. Try to name what you are feeling in this moment. Thank yourself for this moment and your strength.

What can you do?

            It is good to identify in advance some grounding exercises that can be useful to you, so it is easier for you to use them when you are activated. When you feel triggered, try to do one of your exercises. It may also help to practice these exercises when you are not feeling overwhelmed so that the practice becomes familiar and a useful tool in your tool kit. The Mira app contains several grounding exercises that are easily accessible anytime. You can start trying those out.

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