The Grounding Technique for Dealing With Stress
Have you ever experienced such intense stress that you seemed to disconnect from reality? The feeling of being drawn by your inner experiences to such an extent that you felt unable to stay in the present. The grounding technique can help in these cases.
When you experience severe emotional shock, your mind sets in motion various defense mechanisms to prevent you from suffering. However, these might also prevent you from functioning normally. This is when the grounding technique may be useful.
Many people experience depersonalization and derealization at some point in their lives. These are alterations in perception. They lead you to distance either yourself or your environment when circumstances overwhelm you.
Usually, this type of experience doesn’t last longer than a few minutes. However, when they occur too frequently or are over-prolonged, they can make you feel extremely uncomfortable. Being able to return to the “here and now” is what allows you to escape those unpleasant moments.
Grounding is a simple procedure that’s used whenever a person feels emotionally overwhelmed. In fact, when their attention is so taken up by the trauma they’re facing that they feel paralyzed.
The main objective of grounding is a return to reality. To return the sufferer’s attention to the present and to neutral or unthreatening stimuli.
This procedure is used in psychological first aid when dealing with people who’ve experienced a traumatic event. However, it’s also useful in more everyday situations where the circumstances aren’t so traumatic but still emotionally intense. For example, if someone receives news that throws them off balance or makes them anxious.
When should it be used?
There are some clues that tell you if a person needs outside help to stabilize themselves. Some of the signs are as follows:
- They seem absent or lost. Furthermore, they don’t respond to questions or calls for their attention.
- They display erratic or disorganized behavior.
- Their emotional reactions are intense and uncontrolled. For example, they cry uncontrollably or they’re aggressive, or they have trouble breathing.
- On a subjective level, they distance themselves from reality. In fact, they feel like they’re watching a movie or seeing the world through a darkened glass.
How to use the grounding technique
To apply the grounding technique, you must try to get the person to regulate themselves. Ask them to breathe slowly and deeply. This calms their mood and physiological sensations. You might then ask some basic questions. This is to check their level of orientation and to start to bring them back into the present. A good starting point is to ask them if they know their name or what happened.
The person needs to return to reality in such a way that doesn’t increase their anxiety. To achieve this, you could ask them to perform some of the following tasks:
- Objectively describe their immediate environment.
- Name five objects they can see that don’t cause them any distress.
- List five neutral sounds they can perceive.
- Identify some different sensations that don’t make them anxious.
Using grounding to deal with stressful situations
You can also use grounding if you’re feeling stressed yourself, so long as it isn’t to a paralyzing extent. In this way, by using your senses, you’re able to reconnect with reality.
As well as the techniques we mentioned above, you can try others too. For example, hold an ice cube in your hand, walk barefoot on the grass, or bang on a nearby object as if you’re banging on a drum.
These activities allow you to reconnect your body with the present, decrease anxiety, and regain some control. Nevertheless, as always, seek professional help if symptoms don’t improve.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- de Tord, P., Brauninger, I. (2015) Grounding: Theoretical application and practice in Dance Movement Therapy, The Arts in Psychotherapy, 9, 138-153.
- Hernández, I. E., & Gutiérrez, L. P. (2014). Manual básico de Primeros Auxilios Psicológicos. Recuperado abril de 2021, de https://www.cucs.udg.mx/sites/default/files/adjuntos/manual_primeros_auxilios_psicologicos_2017.pdf