A Beautiful Mess

A Sexual Abuse and Addiction Recovery Blog

Grounding ((Coping Skill))

on May 25, 2010

The week’s quote was “No feeling is final.” Rainer Maria Rilke is a 20th-century German poet who was credited with this quote.  I love it.  Basically, to me, it means that with time all wounds can heal and the old adage of, “this, too, shall pass”.

What is Grounding?

Grounding is a simple set of strategies to detach from emotional pain (self harm impulses, anger, sadness, drug/alcohol cravings).  It works by focusing outward on the external world, rather than on what’s going on inside.  Other words or phrases used to describe this coping skill are: distraction, centering, a safe place, looking outward, or healthy detachment.

Why Do Grounding?

It helps when the emotions are too overwhelming to be dealt with at that particular moment.  It helps give control over feels and helps a person stay safe.

Guidelines regarding grounding:

  • Grounding can be done any time, any place, anywhere, and no one has to know.
  • Use grounding when you are faced with a trigger, enraged, dissociating, having a substance craving or whenever your emotional pain goes above 6 (on a 0-10 scale).  Grounding puts healthy distance between you and these negative feelings.
  • Keep your eyes OPEN, scan the room, and turn the light on to stay in touch with the present.
  • Rate your mood before and after grounding, to test whether it worked.  Before grounding, rate your level of emotional pain (0-10, where 10 means “extreme pain”).  The rerate it afterward.  Has it gone down?
  • No talking about negative feelings or journal writing – you want to distract away from negative feelings, not get in touch with them.
  • Stay neutral – avoid the judgment of good vs. bad.  Simply state the facts, like, “the walls are white”, “the floor is hard and cold”, “the lamp is silver”.
  • Focus on the present, not the past or future.
  • Note that grounding is different than a relaxation training.  Grounding is much more involved and focuses on distractions and is supposed to be used when extremely negative feelings arise.

Grounding is believed to be very effective for those with PTSD.

Ways of Grounding

  • Mental: focusing on mind
  • Physical: focusing on your senses
  • Soothing: talk to self in a very kind way

Examples of Mental

Describe environment in detail, describe an everyday activity in great detail, read something backwards (helps focus on the word(s) themselves and not the writing), count to ten or say the alphabet

Examples of Physical

Run cool or warm water over hands, grab tightly to a chair or railing, dig heels into the floor, jump up and down, stretch, eat something and describe it in detail, focus on breathing

Examples of Soothing

Tell yourself kind statements (You are a good person going through hard times.  You’ll get through this.), think of favorite colors, shows, etc., picture people you care about, remember an inspiring song/poem

Grounding works.  For my experience, I enjoy a mixture of all three depending on my mood and how intense it is.  For me, the soothing and physical work best when I’m really wound up, but the mental is good when it’s something that upsets me, but more on a scale of a 6 or 7.

Take from this what you will.  I am very thankful to have the resources available to me and I hope that someone somewhere may find these of good use to them.

Eyes on God.  Humbled.


2 responses to “Grounding ((Coping Skill))

  1. Lisa says:

    I will definately have to try it.

  2. OMW! i luv that quote too. thank u for this really lovely post. i liked your ways of “grounding”. they sounded familiar to the biopsychosocial model as a tool to taking care of ourselves. keep on lady courage.

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