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9 Things I Have in My Grounding 'Toolkit'

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Grounding, as it’s described in the mental health world, is a practice that helps you remain in the present moment. It is used for multiple reasons — anxiety, depression, dissociation and PTSD, to name a few. The technique involves using your five senses (sight, sound, taste, touch and smell), which helps interrupt the disruptive thoughts and symptoms of what’s troubling you.

I use grounding for both anxiety and depression. It allows me to get out of my head, stop or lessen panic symptoms or interrupt a crying spell. I don’t always remember to do it, and it doesn’t always help — but I’m glad I know how to do it, as it does often help. Personally the sensory areas that appeal to me are smell and touch. Everyone is different and may find one more helpful over another, or that they change over time. I’ve gathered a small collection of items I keep in case I need them, and I thought it might be helpful to share my list. If you have some special items, we’d all love to hear about them in the comments.

1. Essential Oils

I use essential oils as a quick jolt to my senses, which helps interrupt whatever mental difficulty I am having. I tend to gravitate towards peppermint and florals, but everyone will have their own preference. Some people even use scents they don’t like as a way to intensely interrupt themselves. These are some of the products I enjoy.

2. Fidget Items

When they first started releasing the various fidget items, I thought it was pretty hokey. My therapist had one in her office though, and after trying it, I realized I kind of liked it. It gives me a place to focus some of my nervous energy. There are various options, at varying expense. The more expensive ones typically have a better feel to them, and are constructed better. But really it’s a matter of taste and finances. The original fidget cube is my favorite, check it out here.

3. Weighted Blanket and Lap Pad

These blankets serve as a nice weight that is cozy and calming, similar to the feeling of being tucked in with several quilts. These items don’t come cheap unfortunately. I had wanted them for a long time, but couldn’t afford it. Luckily for me, I had two separate friends come forward, who were able to sew for me at an affordable rate. Because they can be so expensive I’d recommend finding someone local, or if you’re crafty, trying it on your own.

4. Bath or Shower

These vary from bath to shower and from hot to cool, depending on time and need. I use baths, typically with some nice bubbles or bath bomb when I need to calm my nervous system. I may have a cool shower if I’m more in need of being brought back to reality. I also get anxiety headaches and find a cool shower or bath can help.

5. Candle

I find watching a flame to be soothing as well as a little a mesmerizing. There is some sort of camping quote about how you won’t get lonely if you make a fire. If like me, you find smells help, this is another option to add a scent into the mix. I prefer beeswax candles, as they are more natural, and long lasting.

6. Magic Sequin

This is something new, which I just recently stumbled upon. They come in various forms: pillows, pencil cases, backpacks and so on. It is a fun visual and touch item. I picked out a pencil case, as I felt it to be a little less flashy and it can double as a place to store some of my other grounding items. Here is one option.

7. Ice cubes

Ice cubes can be used in many ways. I personally chew on them. The coldness and crunchiness are helpful to me. Other folks hold onto them or put them elsewhere on the body. It’s an almost free option that is worth trying. 

8. Five-sense technique

This is a tried-and-true grounding method, which will be found in most mental health workbooks. I use it largely in the case of dissociation or when my emotions are feeling uncontrollable. The premise of this exercise is that you deliberately take note of your surroundings, and begin listing off what your senses notice. This method may have some different steps or names based on who is teaching it, but the general principal is the same.

9. Stones

I have always had an affinity for stones, which in adulthood has lead me to having a small collection of gems. They are fun to look at, feel interesting, and some even warm-up as they are held. I find comfort and curiosity in them. There are actual “worry stones” that have a pre-made groove in them, the option of polished or raw, big or small. They are easy to keep in a pocket, wear on a chain, or kept on a shelf.

There are as many options for grounding as there are people, plus the numerous adaptations within the options. This list is a few of mine that I have curated over the years. There are probably some I’ve forgotten, and others I will find in the future.  If you are now beginning on your journey or just looking for more options, I hope my list has given you some helpful ideas. Did I miss something? Do you have a favorite not listed? Share below.

Unsplash photo via Christian Gertenbach

Originally published: June 15, 2018
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