25+ Simple Grounding Techniques For PTSD and Trauma
For those living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or Complex-PTSD, “forgetting” the trauma is not a thing. Anyone who has been through a traumatic experience simply cannot move on and forget the experience as if it never happened.
More often than not, the traumatic experience can manifest itself as a flashback, an intrusive memory, or even as a panic or anxiety attack. These experiences can be as overwhelming as they can be terrifying.
Although everyone’s experiences with post-traumatic stress and trauma might be different, the ways to cope with them remain the same. Out of those coping techniques, there are grounding techniques that have proven to be the most effective.
In this article, I’ve listed some of the best grounding techniques for PTSD and C-PTSD. You can use these grounding exercises to calm your panic response down. Before that, let’s take a look at how grounding techniques for PTSD work.
How Do Grounding Exercises For PTSD Work?
Grounding exercises are coping techniques designed to bring awareness and ground you to the present moment. You can use grounding techniques for dissociation, flashbacks, anxiety, and panic attacks, especially when you’re coping with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Because these techniques help you focus on the present moment, grounding exercises are considered a type of mindfulness activity as well.
How do these techniques work?
Well, grounding techniques use the five senses to connect you to the present moment. For example, holding or eating an ice cube, washing your face with cold water, or smelling essential oils can all work together to bring your awareness to the present and activate your senses to distract you from the turbulent thoughts in your head.
How you choose to act on the grounding techniques can be personalized. What works for me might not work for you. Some grounding techniques might even trigger a flashback in some people, so you have to be very mindful of which techniques you use and how you use them.
You can always fall back on your tried and tested coping mechanisms if any of the grounding techniques for PTSD and trauma seem to trigger a panic response. If the grounding techniques continue to harm your mind and body, please connect with a trauma-informed therapist to learn more.
Grounding Techniques For PTSD & C-PTSD
In this section, we’re focusing on the five senses’ grounding techniques for PTSD, starting with sight.
- Pick a puzzle, word game, or Sudoku to work on
- Count and name all the things you can see around you (e.g. lamp, bed, table, etc.)
- Play a brain game on your phone
- Watch your comfort movie or TV series
- Read a book
Moving on, we’re focusing on smells.
- Smell some essential oils that remind you of happy times (I like lavender and eucalyptus)
- Light a scented candle
- Sniff a peppermint candle or essential oil
Now, let’s focus on grounding techniques that you can try with sounds.
- Call your emergency number or therapist
- Listen to audio such as river flowing, waves crashing, or anything that sounds calming to your ears
- Pick the nearest magazine, book, or newspaper and read it out loud
- Listen to the clock ticking
- Listen to your favorite music album
- Talk to yourself and keep repeating a mantra like, “I am safe. I am OK.”
Let’s give our taste buds a chance. Here are taste-based grounding exercises for PTSD.
- Bite into an ice cube
- Eat a sour candy (I like eating raw lemon slices)
- Eat a chocolate bar and take your time. Notice the sensations as it melts in your mouth
- Chew a peppermint or cinnamon gum
- Eat something that reminds you of a happy memory
Let’s see what you can do with touch.
- Cuddle or hug a pet (if you have one)
- Drink a glass of cold water
- Grab your favorite piece of clothing and hug it (I have a blanket that I keep handy). Notice how it feels on your skin
- Hold an ice cube in your hands
- Pop bubble wrap
- Splash your face with cold water
- Run cold water on your wrists
- Hold a soft toy or a stress ball and take deep breaths
- Draw circles on your left palm with your right hand
Other PTSD grounding exercises you can try;
- Dance like no one’s watching you
- Go for a quick run around the block
- Listen to a voice recording of a loved one
- Go to your happy place in your mind
- Do some gentle stretches
- Try 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise
- Try 4-7-8 breathing exercise
- Write in a journal about how you’re currently feeling
- Recite a times table in your head
- Walk barefoot on the grass
The best part about practicing grounding techniques is that you can do them anywhere – whether you’re home alone, at work or in a public place. Whenever you feel triggered or sense a panic attack building, you can quickly use these grounding techniques to bring your awareness to the present.
It might take some time to get used to grounding techniques but keep practicing. Eventually, they’ll become easier. Remember, if any of these techniques trigger anxiety, dissociation, or flashback, STOP immediately. You can either snap a rubber band around your wrist to come back to the present or call your emergency contact.
Reach Out For Help…
If you’re struggling with coping with post-traumatic stress disorder, C-PTSD, dissociation, flashbacks, or any other related condition, then connect with a trauma-informed therapist for professional help and treatment.
Reaching out for help is a sign of courage. A therapist can help you understand the cause of your trauma and post-traumatic stress as well as create a treatment plan that will help you deal with your PTSD. If your PTSD is serious, then a therapist can also prescribe medications* to help with the symptoms.
*Only a professional can prescribe medications for PTSD. Do not take OTC medications without consulting a professional.
Recovery from PTSD is possible under the guidance and support of a professional. I hope this article helps you learn grounding techniques for PTSD that you can use to ground yourself in the present moment.
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