Grounding skills are things you can do that help in becoming present and staying present. It’s about being aware of your surroundings and being in the moment. For people that dissociate or experience flashbacks it can be really, really useful.
I used to keep a printed list stuck to the wall next t my bed. It meant that when I was feeling really overwhelmed I didn’t have to try to remember what to do. I no longer need that list, and can usually remember how to ground myself when feeling extremely overwhelmed or dissociated.
Here’s a list of the grounding skills I’ve found most helpful.
Five things you can see/feel/hear/smell
This is a mindfulness exercise that is useful for becoming more present. For me, this doesn’t always work. I need to be in my body enough in order to focus on the things around me.
When I notice I’m beginning to dissociate a little this is a good one! I will count only red things, or blue things. Signs, cars, flowers, anything! Focussing on one colour only makes you focus and think more.
Counting backwards from 100 in multiples of 3
This is another one that makes you think which can help you to become more present. It takes quite a lot of effort to do this.
Moving your body
Moving my body helps to become more present. I think this works for me because when I become very dissociated my body will freeze. If I can start moving around I can become more present. Start with fingers and toes, just wriggling them. Then move on to arms and/or legs. Standing, walking, and more whole body movements can help.
The strong smell of lavender oil can, somehow, snap me out of a dissociated state quite rapidly. When I’m extremely dissociated someone holding the open bottle under my nose can be enough to make me much more present.
A recent discovery – an ice pack under my feet! This works in a similar way to the lavender oil for me. It brings me back very quickly, which is good but also unpleasant. I haven’t tried it when I’m extremely dissociated, but I think it would be useful then too.
Quite a few years ago I bought a weighted blanket and it’s been amazingly helpful in managing flashbacks and dissociation. It’s not something everyone will have access to, or something that will work for everyone, but it’s something that helps ground us as well as ease anxiety.
Things like tangle toys, and fidget cubes have been fun and helpful for us. We can sit and focus on different textures, sensations, and movements, and use that to become more present and grounded.
(I’m in no way affiliated with these companies, I’m just sharing what I’ve found helpful.)
If you’ve got anything that works well for you, let me know, I’ll add it to the list!