What are Grounding Techniques?
Grounding techniques help us cope with uncomfortable symptoms that may arise from a traumatic experience or other type of stressful event. For example, if someone experienced a traumatic event, it is common for them to experience flashbacks or catastrophic thinking. By using grounding techniques, we can better manage these symptoms by shifting our focus from the uncomfortable memory or thought to the present moment. It is easy to get “lost” in our mind and the grounding techniques help us to stabilize and be more tuned in to our surroundings (Schuldt, n.d.).
Using the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
In this technique, try to actively notice details in your surroundings by using the 5 senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. Typically, they are details we usually do not pay attention to. Ask yourself:
1. What are 5 things I can see?
Notice details such as patterns and colors on walls, the door, or ceiling. If you are outside, notice what is around you. Whether inside or outside, you may see an object you have not noticed before.
2. What are 4 things I can feel?
Notice the texture of your clothing and the sensation of how it feels on your skin. Notice if where you are sitting or standing is comfortable. You can also grab an object and examine its weight or texture.
3. What are 3 things I can hear?
Notice sounds you typically ignore, such as a car in the distance, the chatter of people around you, or a ticking clock. If you hear music in the distance, try to determine the genre or lyrics.
4. What are 2 things I can smell?
Notice if there is an air freshener, a candle, or food near you. You can also search for something that has a scent, such as a flower or even your jacket/sweater.
5. What is 1 thing I can taste?
You can recall what you last ate, or find gum, candy or snacks. As you are chewing, focus on the flavors.
You can also be creative and challenge yourself by randomly choosing a number and one of the 5 senses. You can challenge yourself further by being specific in what you are identifying. For example, you can try to only identify textures, objects with a specific color, or something from a specific category. If using the technique seems too overwhelming, try it with a friend or a family member. It can even be a family activity, which can be beneficial as everyone will be learning a coping skill.
Schuldt, W. (n.d.). Grounding techniques. Therapist Aid. https://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-article/grounding-techniques-article