Grounding exercises are practices that can help you manage your trauma symptoms when they occur. These strategies are useful way to ground yourself to the present moment, especially when you are experiencing flashbacks, anxiety attacks or dissociation and your sense of awareness is distorted.
You can also prevent your trauma symptoms from worsening by practicing grounding exercises. Even when you are experiencing intense symptoms, these exercises prepare you for when they may arise, building your confidence during your recovery.
How Are Grounding Exercises Useful?
Grounding exercises help you to focus on the here and now. By connecting to the present and your environment, you can distract yourself from what is going on in your mind and regain your sense of awareness.
These exercises are useful not only for people who suffer from trauma, but also for people with other mental conditions, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and dissociative disorder. Grounding exercises can help with mental health symptoms such as:
- Overwhelming memories
- Strong emotions
- Panic or anxiety attacks
- Intrusive thoughts
Examples of Grounding Exercises
Many grounding exercises engage one or more of your five senses – sight, smell, sound, touch and taste – in order to ground you to the present. 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.
Here are some examples of the many different types of grounding exercises:
- 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 grounding techniques distract you from the original trigger and what is going on in your mind. Making them part of your self-care toolkit can be very useful when symptoms occur.
What Can You Do?
It is useful to identify in advance some grounding exercises that can help you, so it is easier for you to use them when you are actively experiencing one of your trauma symptoms. It may also help to practice these exercises when you are not feeling overwhelmed so that the practice becomes familiar and a useful element in your tool kit.
The Mira app contains several grounding exercises, such as rhythmic tapping and soothing sounds, that are easily accessible 24/7. Start your free 14-day trial of Mira Plus, or use some of the features found our free subscription of Mira for All. To learn more about trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, check out our blog!