16 Grounding Techniques That Help With My PTSD and Anxiety


Perhaps you are familiar with the term “grounding techniques.” It might be something you’ve heard said in therapy if you have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or anxiety. Or maybe these are new words for you.

The idea behind grounding techniques is that they are meant to help you stay in the present. They can help keep you aware of the here and now and focus you on reality so you are not overwhelmed by flashbacks or panic attacks from anxiety. They can be useful at home or on the go, and they can vary from something as simple as deep breathing to more complex things like sensation techniques, where you touch fabrics of different textures.

As a person with both PTSD and social anxiety, I’ve found grounding techniques can help in many high-stress situations, even if they are not a cure-all.

I began using grounding techniques at home by doing things that soothed me or helped bring me back into reality when a panic attack or flashback set in. Some of the things I have tried that worked include:

1. Holding icepacks (wrapped in towels) in your hands and touching them gently to your neck or the inside of your arms.

2. Lighting candles.

3. Burning incense (or using essential oils) with smells that are comforting to you.

4. Wrapping yourself in softly-textured blankets, such as fleece.

5. Touching/holding things of different textures, such as feathers, smooth stones, sandpaper, flour in a bowl.

6. Letting cool or cold water run over your hands.

7. Washing your face in cool water.

8. Watching a snow globe or hourglass

9. Running beads through your hands (with a beaded necklace or other beaded item).

10. Playing music (I am only able to listen to specific types of music, so I have a playlist that is prerecorded and ready specifically just for these moments. Be sure your playlist is likewise ready beforehand).

11. Breathing deeply and holding each breath for a count of three in and a count of three out.

12. Sticky notes or a notebook and a pen, so you can write “I’m OK” or other positive message.

13. A journal (and a pen).

14. An adult coloring book and colored pencils or gel pens.

15. Earplugs (to deaden noise that may be affecting you).

16. A sleeping mask (to soften light or block out visuals that may be affecting you).

Once I recognized what did and did not work for me as far as grounding techniques, I realized I needed to have my grounding techniques ready to go before I needed them. So I made a grounding box.

A grounding box is simply a box of things that help me when I need them. If I have things gathered in one place before I need them, I don’t have to worry about gathering them together when I’m panicked or having a flashback. It can be as simple as a shoebox that you fill with feathers, smooth stones, a journal, pens and some essential oils. You will likely be glad you have it pre-made!

I also recommend making a grounding box “to go.” This is essentially a smaller version of the same thing, but made travel-size. I recommend including a set of earplugs (to deaden high noise areas if you find yourself in a situation where noise is causing you anxiety), as well as a sleep mask (if you need to cover your eyes to focus out light or disturbing visuals).

A “to go” grounding bag should be small enough to fit in a purse or glove box, or at least be small enough to be stashed easily in a car for travel.

Image via Thinkstock.

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