Grounding is a strategy that helps when an individual is experiencing emotional distress. Grounding helps the individual separate from emotional distress in order to take back control and focus on the present moment in a healthy, safe way.
What does it help?
Grounding can help individuals who experience anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, to name a few; however, you don’t have to have a mental illness to benefit from grounding techniques. Grounding can help with the following:
• Overwhelming emotions: Emotions such as anger, sadness, and panic can lead to distress. For some individuals, the emotions escalate to the point where they feel overpowering.
• Desires and urges: Unhealthy desires, urges, or impulsive actions that the individual is working towards avoiding can be managed with grounding techniques.
• Distressing thoughts and memories: Difficult and distressing memories, worry-based thoughts, negative thinking, and self-criticism can accumulate and replay in the individual’s mind to the point where the individual feels debilitated by these thoughts.
• Stress: Accumulating personal responsibilities, increased work demands, life or schedule changes, or the overall day-to-day grind can lead to stress that is experienced in small bursts when situations arise, or for the long term.
When do I use it?
Grounding can be used as needed, such as when the individual experiences the overwhelming emotions, desires and urges, distressing thoughts and memories, and during times of stress. Grounding can also be incorporated into one’s daily and weekly routine, as a way to re-center and maintain overall mental health and well-being.
How does it work?
There are different types of grounding techniques, each one targeting specific areas and specific ways in which the individual experiences emotional distress.
• Thoughts: This is when emotional distress is experienced as rumination about concerns, angry or sad thoughts, replaying memories and reminders, trying to obtain solutions to challenges, etc. Grounding for this type of distress can be applied by focusing thoughts elsewhere, such as naming all the street names you can remember, naming each of the television shows you have watched, or naming all of the objects around you.
• Physical Body: This is when emotional distress is experienced as tension in the body or energy that needs to be relieved. Grounding for this type of distress can be applied by gripping the seat of your chair or an object near you as tightly as possible then releasing the grip, pressing the palms of your hands together as tightly as possible then releasing, or picking up a safe object and describing everything you can about it as you feel the object.
• Visualization: Visualizing a calm and safe place, or symbolically placing the distress elsewhere, can assist in separating from emotional distress. Grounding for this type of distress can be applied by visualizing a location that makes you feel calm, such as a location you’ve visited in the past, or a location that you imagine would bring about a sense of calmness for you. This can also include imagining the distress being placed as far away as possible in a large open field, or in a box with the lid tightly shut closed.
Want to learn more?
Don’t wait to get the help you need. If you would like to take the next step towards finding a therapist who can assist, contact Ethera to get matched with a provider.
About the Author: Robyn Tamanaha is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, writer, and podcaster. She has a private practice in Orange County, CA and is the host of the podcast Books Between Sessions.
Written by Robyn Tamanaha, LMFT
October 1, 2020