When I am working with a client who is suffering from trauma, I often find that mindfulness and relaxation strategies are helpful.
While grounding techniques may be beneficial for anybody’s overall health and wellbeing, they may also be used by trauma survivors to help them find calm in situations which trigger symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Grounding and Mindfulness
Mindfulness is about being physically and emotionally present in the current moment – and grounding techniques are an excellent way of achieving this.
When we have suffered through trauma, in stressful circumstances our bodies tend to go into “survival mode” – triggering the fight, flight, or freeze reaction – just as if we were back in that traumatic situation or event. All of these reactions affect every part of our being:
- Fight – we become angry, agitated and aggressive;
- Flight – our anxiety levels rise dramatically;
- Freeze – or we feel numb or zone out as a way of detaching from the situation.
Our pulse, blood pressure, and breathing escalates; our pupils dilate; we feel a surge of adrenaline, become shaky or clammy, or our stomach starts churning.
Grounding techniques are a way of telling your body and mind that you are in the here and now, where it is safe, not lost in the past, which helps with relieving these distressing sensations.
5 Grounding Techniques for Trauma Survivors
Here are five simple grounding techniques for you to try, next time your PTSD symptoms are triggered.
- See, Hear and Smell – A great way to connect with the present, is by naming three things you can see, three things you can hear, and three things you can smell.
- Sound – Turn on a loud sound such as an alarm clock or high pitched music; it will distract you from the past and bring you firmly back into the present.
- Movement – Throw a ball with someone, or against a wall. A more subtle method for you to try if you are standing up, is to repeatedly rise up onto your toes, and then back down again.
- Touch – Compare textures – feel the surface of the couch or chair, feel a key ring or clothing, or the grass beneath your bare feet.
- Breathe – Slowly take a deep breath, focusing on the breath in through your nostrils while counting to five, then slowly breathing outwards through your mouth, while counting to eight.
It’s no coincidence that each of these grounding techniques require you to use your senses – by using your body, you are able to re-connect with the present, instead of getting lost in your mind and in the past.
Author: Jayani Jayatilake, BA (Soc Sc), M Social Work, AMHSW.
With a Masters degree in Social Work and a strong interest in the cultural considerations in counselling, Jayani considers each individual client to be the expert in their own life. As such, she encourages her clients to take an active role in therapy. By helping them to recognise and draw on their own strengths, resourcefulness and resilience, Jayani supports them to overcome obstacles and create the life they want. Jayani is able to provide English and Sinhalese counselling.
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