Short & Sweet: How to Come Back to Earth in 5 Steps

Since summertime is almost here I want all of you (and me too) to be spending more time in the out of doors and less time with your face in a screen. Therefore, I’m starting my Short & Sweet series, or short interventions that I do with therapy clients that work.

For our very first edition, I will be introducing you all to the concept of grounding.

Mindfulness and meditation is all the rage these days. If you want to learn how to integrate mindfulness in a simple and accessible manner, read my blog I read about it.

Grounding isn’t that, and here’s why it’s still important.

Who’s it for, Leticia?

Grounding is a technique featured in one of my favorite treatment modalities, Seeking Safety,  and its accompanying workbook, Seeking Safety: A Treatment Manual for PTSD and Substance Abuse (Najavits,2002). This treatment was developed to address the needs of individuals who had experienced trauma and who struggled with drug abuse, unsafe sex, self-harm, and other dangerous behaviors.

Although grounding was developed for trauma survivors, anyone who needs some help coming back into their body after an intense mental or emotional experiences may benefit.

What do I need?

You just need yourself! The following example I will give is for people who possess abilities in all of their sensory realms. 

How do I do it?

Five easy steps does the trick. However, one thing that I notice is that often when people try this for the first few times, it’s easy for them to get caught up in their evaluative or judgmental thoughts. See if you can gently challenge yourself to notice these thoughts, but to not get trapped in their net. For example, when naming a painted wall, see if you can focus your thoughts into something like, “I see a wall painted a rusty orange color,” or “I see a wall painted a brownish color mixed with orange that is lightly chipped along the bottom” instead of, “I see a wall painted a horrible ugly color of orange.”

Catch my drift? If so, here it goes:

1.)Name five things that you see. Notice shapes and colors.

2.)Name four things that you hear. Notice tones, volume, and density.

3.)Find three objects you can touch and hold. Notice temperatures and textures.

4.)Name two things you can smell.

5.)Think about the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you.

Or alternately:

1.)Name your five favorite bands.

2.)Name your four favorite sports teams.

3.)Name you three favorite foods.

4.)Name two people who love you.

5.)Name one thing you appreciate about yourself.

Please note that this strategy is not introduced to suggest that recovery from emotional and mental challenges is easy or quick. On the contrary, recovery is often a years long if not life-long process that includes social support, therapy, and often psychiatric treatment, as well as finding one’s place in one’s respective community. This exercise is introduced as a way of providing education with the intent of demystifying therapy and breaking down some of the myths of therapy (for example, the idea that therapy is just about talking with your therapist). The myths of therapy will be broken down in a future blog post.

These tips do not replace the guidance of a qualified professional and if you are struggling with your thoughts and emotions, do not hesitate to seek out professional help.

Works Cited:

Najavits, L. (2002). Seeking safety: A treatment manual for PTSD and substance abuse. New York: Guilford Press.