Grounding tools and exercises are invaluable skills to have in your back pocket. At RAHAB, we use them both with the women and children we serve and with ourselves.
Below are different tools separated by the amount of effort and what the tool primarily focuses on (the physical body, the mind, or the senses).
- Grab a Snack/Glass of Water. Addressing the physical needs of the body often helps in addressing the mental/emotional needs later on. Check in – when was the last time you had something to eat or water to drink (not coffee, tea, soda, etc.)?
- Deep Breathing. A great tool for just about any kind of situation, whether you’re in distress or not. Deep breathing can bring your body toward equilibrium or keep it there.
- How to get started: start with the Square Technique – 4 second inhale, 4 second hold, 4 second exhale, 4 second hold, repeat.
- Drum/Tap/Hit. This is a good tool when your body feels restless, when you’re angry, or if you are experiencing self-harm urges.
- How to get started: find a table, pillow, or wall, anything that’s not your body, and drum on it. Do this as long as you need until the energy, emotion, or the urge has run out.
- Check-In. Sometimes when we begin to experience anxiety or distressing moments, we dissociate or lose touch with what’s going on. Check in with yourself to regain awareness.
- How to get started: ask yourself, or have someone ask you, questions. Where are you right now? How does your body feel? What’s something you’re thinking? Who is with you? What are you doing?
- Watch a Movie or TV Show. This is a distraction tool.
- How to get started: to not just have this be a mindless, numbing activity, make observations about the show. Focus intently on the sounds of the show, the colors in the costumes, what’s going on in the background, what do you imagine the scenes smell like, etc.
- Various Sensory Activities.
- Aromatherapy (with candles, incense, or essential oils)
- Play with fidget toys
- Touch textures you like (sand, rocks, certain fabric, yarn, your hair, etc.)
- Listen to music you like
- Take Care of Your Body. It can be a bit more difficult to physically get up, move, and do the things you know you should. But taking care of your body is helpful and can refresh your mind.
- How to get started. Take it one step at a time. Start with getting up, whether from your bed or the chair you are sitting in.
- Decide if you’re able to do any of the following things: Shower, brush your teeth, wash your face, wash your hands, brush your hair, put on a different/fresh pair of clothes, move your body in some way, etc.
- Journaling. Writing out your thoughts, feelings, opinions, situations, triggers, or other things can help you process them. It can also be helpful to take the overwhelming thoughts out of your head and put them onto physical paper.
- How to get started: let your mind guide your pencil. Don’t overthink or second guess what you put. If you don’t know where to start, search journal prompts online.
- Gratitude List. I know, such a cliché and cheesy thing, but within a Christian perspective, gratitude is a form of worship to our Father. While it may be difficult to recognize what you are grateful for, this is a really healing exercise.
- How to get started: think of things, people, places, events, activities and spiritual, physical, emotional, or social aspects of your life. This can be as extensive or short as you want.
- Color a Page from a Coloring Book or Read a Book. These can be mindfulness or distraction tools, depending on what you need.
- Make a List. Making a list can be a helpful way to organize and gain some control over overwhelming cycles of things and thoughts.
- How to get started: write out each thing you need to do and the thoughts you feel into a list. Pick one thing from the to-do list to tackle today and one thought to dive into and address. If you finish with that task and thought, move on to the next ones.
- Clean or Organize Something. Whether it’s your bathroom, desk, or car, dedicate some time to clean. This can help exert physical stress and create peace in your mind.
- Cook or Bake Something Elaborate: choose something you like that requires prep, organization, multiple steps, and maybe even a trip to the grocery store.
- Urge Surfing. This can be used to stop or reduce urges regarding drug and alcohol use, emotional reactions, or other unwanted behaviors.
- How to get started: you’ll first need to have some insight into your triggers and the ability to recognize urges. When an urge comes, “ride it out.” This is hard. Most urges pass after 15 minutes. It gets easier and easier to ride urges out the more you don’t engage in them.
- Tap into your Wise Mind. The Wise Mind is the balance between the logical and the emotional brain. Your Wise Mind is able to recognize and respect your feelings, yet respond to them in a rational manner.
- How to get started: first step is to feel all your emotions; they are all valid. Then, evaluate which ones are based on truth and fact, and which ones are simply just feelings. Then approach whatever situation is at hand with the true, edifying emotions and move forward with rational action steps. Easier said than done!
- Go Somewhere. Whether an outdoor park or indoor bookstore, pick a place and prepare to do the 5 Senses exercise.
- How to get started: get comfortable in the space you are in. Name or list 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
My personal favorite grounding tools:
- Physical: deep breathing, walking, and organizing. These exercises regulate my breathing, get my body moving, and help my mind feel clear.
- Mental: journaling. I am an internal and verbal processor, so journaling is the best way for me to put the thoughts somewhere safe and think about them at the same time.
- Sensory: music and the 5 Senses exercise.I am a big music person. It helps me focus on tasks, and the 5 Senses exercise has proven to help me gain awareness of what’s going on around me.
I wish blessings on you as you help others and help yourself use these grounding tools. Please remember that there is so much grace bestowed on us by God!
By Gracia Macmillan