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7 Ways to Bring Yourself Back From Emotional 'Numbness' or Dissociation

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Sometimes people throw words around and don’t really explain the practical application of how to do those skills. “Grounding” is one of those words. Grounding means to anchor yourself in the here-and-now, to distract your mind from its thoughts and bring you back to the present moment.

I’ve often been told to practice grounding when I’m feeling pulled into the past by a traumatic memory or when I don’t really have a handle on the reality or time and place. But when being mindful and counting things in a room I can see, hear, touch, smell or see doesn’t work, what should I do then?

In the midst of feeling dissociated, I’m not thinking clearly enough to come up with how to further ground myself. So I came up with these ideas for times I’m feeling numb or dissociated:

  1. Try walking barefoot slowly on the grass. Feel each piece of grass push into the bottom of your feet and bend beneath your weight. Can you hear the grass crunching beneath your feet?
  2. Suck on a sour candy and taste the tartness as your lips purse.
  3. Remind yourself of the height of your body — you’re big now, you can walk away from dangerous situations. Have someone trace you on a big piece of paper and see your height and size. Feel the pencil and their hand as it traces your body.  If you don’t have big enough paper, measure yourself on the door jam with a pencil instead. When you turn and look at how tall you are, notice how much bigger you are than you feel.
  4. Turn on music and sing to it. Scream the lyrics if you need to, but be sure to feel your vocal chords moving and working.
  5. Stomp your feet — feel the ground below your feet and the soles of your foot as they touch and move toward and away from each other. Feel your calves flexing and hear the noise it makes to stomp.
  6. Dunk your head in a sink of cold water (preferably with ice in it) and hold it there for 15 to 30 seconds. Get the dive reflex activated. Make a point to really feel the cold water on your face and the ice as it bobs in the water.
  7. Squeeze ice. Notice the water dripping out of your fingers as you squeeze and it starts to melt. Squeeze as hard as you can and see if the water melts faster.

Unsplash photo via Daniel Monteiro

Originally published: January 20, 2019
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