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How Do You Ground Yourself When Triggered?

Discussion in 'Discussion' started by blueskies, Jun 29, 2009.

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  1. blueskies

    blueskies New Member

    This is an ongoing problem for me. I know I cannot avoid all triggers (sometimes I have no idea why a particular thing even triggers me at all), but it is (still) such a disorienting experience.

    I didn't even know I got triggered until maybe about a year ago. (The PTSD has been a slow learn). I figured it was just my troublesome, weirdly-wired self, some murky aspect of my Depression. But clarity is dawning, and more and more I am able to identify when I've been triggered. The problem is: how do I take care of myself in and around that moment?

    Still new at this ... would love to hear what's worked with others.

    Many thanks,

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  3. liv now

    liv now Active Member

    When I am triggerered i feel unsafe so I do whatever it takes to soothe myself and feel safe. this helps ground me. Sometimes that is curling up with a blanket. I also do the "see hear feel" test. i.e name 3 things you feel, 3 things hear, and 3 things you see. I have to remind myself that it is 2009 and i am an adult with choices not a child. I am very tactile so feeling different textures helps me i.e a soft furry pillow or a stress ball. I explore with hot or cold showers. Sometime I hold a piece of ice if I really need to feel something. Also smelling things i like eg aromatherapy oils. I talk to my child part a lot too and dialogue with her. I reassure her and tell her she is safe etc...Anyway this is just me.
  4. BlankCanvas

    BlankCanvas Active Member

    Hi Blueskies,

    I have been exactly where you are right now and still get caught up in triggers every now and then, but I use a few grounding techniques that work wonders for me.

    These are my favourites:

    - I carry a small rock in my purse at all times. If I get triggered and feel myself starting to dissociate I will grab the rock and focus my thoughts and feelings on the way the rock feels in my hand. I'll squeeze it, notice the different colours, the grooves, etc. This helps me stay present and often I'll do this while walking around in order to release some of the anxious energy that builds up. (This is the same kind of technique liv now mentioned). I also like to splash my face with cold water to help ground myself, or sometimes I keep a cold cloth on my face/neck until I've calmed down.

    - Breathing exercises (Life savers! I use these in combination with lots of grounding techniques). Sometimes I'll do deep breathing exercises while counting backwards from 100. If I'm really scatter brained and anxious, still distracted by anxious thoughts while counting backwards, I'll make it more difficult (count backwards by 3's or recite the alphabet backwards).

    -Visualization exercises

    In addition to grounding exercises I've learned some ways to talk myself through triggering experiences. In the beginning I dwelled on what the trigger was and where it was coming from. Now I just acknowledge that, yes, I'm being triggered. I remind myself that everything will be okay. I have some favourite affirmations that I'll repeat over and over in my mind to drown out all the chaotic thoughts. I assure myself that I am safe and try not to react to the physical sensations that arise from the trigger/anxious response. Surrendering to the feelings that arise from the trigger is very important for me, the more I resist and fight 'what is', the worst it gets.

    I know triggers are unpleasant, they were my worst symptom for a while. They can be frequent and overwhelming at times. It might help you to know that it gets much easier once you find some methods that work well for you. After some practice these coping methods start to come naturally when you're triggered.

    Be compassionate and patient with yourself, you'll find a good combination of techniques that work for you. Sounds like you're well on your way.
  5. cragger65

    cragger65 I'm a VIP

    Great info BC. I'll try some of them myself. One I'e just started using is the trace small circles either in the crook of my arm or on my wrist. Just very gentle and soothing. Try while you're doing that to remember a positive moment in your life. That could be feeling a little more relaxed while taking a bath yesterday, or it could be a moment where you felt connected with someone you care about. Something soothing and positive. If nothing comes to mind, just allow yourself to enjoy the sensation itself.

    good luck with everything,
  6. Gunchief

    Gunchief Active Member

    I try to find something in the present I can focus on and try to keep the past from escalating the event. I know its not real but at the time my brain has a tough time telling me its not.
  7. Ursa

    Ursa Well-Known Member

    I squeeze whatever is in my fingers... sometimes I just have more fingers...
  8. ISupportHer

    ISupportHer Supporter Member
    Premium Member

    These might help me too! As a carer, sometimes I quickly respond by rushing to try to fix things or offer solutions when I should just wait. Taking a deep breath usually doesn't work.

    I know this, in no way, measures up to what sufferers face but thanks!

    Learn something new from all of you almost every day since I "joined".
  9. macpayne

    macpayne Active Member

    I tend to have to use alot of "Self talk". I have to be strong and reassure myself that the past is the past and that I'm safe now.
  10. shadow-light

    shadow-light Member

    I find that things that place on the senses are good. The radio I find very helpful, especially if it's the news or whatever as it sort of reminds you that it's now and not then.

    Counting things in the environment can be good too, but that it sort of environment dependent.

    I also do the squeezing an object thing lol. I carry a small piece of hematite in my pocket and use that, or if for whatever reason I don't have that on me will generally grab on to the end of my necklace and use that instead.
  11. Manic11

    Manic11 Mystery Member

    I'm glad this thread is here. This is something I definitely need to work on but don't know how. I'm going to try counting backward. Something that I just learned works for me is wrapping myself in a blanket... Its lke it mimics the feeling of someone holding you or wrapping their arms around you and since I can't be touched or near anyone when I get triggered, this definitely helps.
    (Thanks to Ursa for that suggestion :Hug_emoticon:)

  12. BethRSA

    BethRSA I'm a VIP

    Thanks for ideas.

    I have a ring now that I didn't have when I was attacked. So when I'm in the heat of the moment with triggers, I feel it and focus on it so I can try to realise it's a different time and place.
  13. Manic11

    Manic11 Mystery Member

    That's a very good idea, Beth!! I ought to try that. Maybe I will buy myself a new braclet or ring so I can do the same...


  14. Snuz

    Snuz New Member

    These many not be "in the moment" but my therapist says that both walking and being in nature are very grounding. Breathing is good too, from the diaphram.
  15. renaissance

    renaissance Member

    What Have People Found as Good Grounding Techniques?

    I would be interested to no if anyone has any ideas for grounding techniques when having flashbacks, I have been using ice which works if you are at work but not if you go out to the shops!! You just end up with a wet pocket!!
  16. This Ends Now

    This Ends Now Well-Known Member
    Premium Member


    Thank you for starting such a useful thread!

    It seems like many of us have independently come to similar conclusions on how to ground all that negative energy. Here is a short list of things I do:

    -Wring my hands or rub my writs. This is usually my first line of defense because it requires nothing and also gives a gentle signal to those around me that I have been triggered.
    -Play with my jewelry. If I am wearing a mala or rosery (or any beads for that matter) I can also chant and at least disassociate to someplace safe rather than stay stuck in mental hell.
    -Cover myself with a blanket. A down comforter is ideal because I can also squeeze it like a pillow, but any covering will work in a pinch. This is part of the reason I usually wear a button up long sleeved shirt or sweater around my waist, even when it is warm outside. If I am triggered in a public place like a store I can just put the shirt on and feel at least a little better.
    -Breathing exercises help a lot. My favorite is to take a deep breath in, immediately exhale, hold my breath out while I count to 5, then repeat. Another is to take 3 quick breaths then 2 deep slow breaths, similar to lamase.
    -Smoke a cigarette. I am not encouraging anybody to start smoking, it is a terrible habit and nicotine is highly addictive; however.... If I am at work or around people who do not know me, it gives an easy to understand excuse for being nervous and getting away. I can always blame being jumpy and grouchy on king nicotine.
    -Find a quiet, dark place to hide. When the room is completely dark, my brain stops producing seritonin and starts producing melatonin which calms me down and sometimes puts me to sleep. Plus, it removes any negative external stimuli and gives me time for my medication to work without disrupting others.
    -Keep my medication on me at all times! I will not go anywhere without my medication. Just knowing that it is there in my pocket gives me the confidence to brave the outside world, it gives me an option, an out. If someone I do not know sees my little pill case (it is very small) or sees me take my colonzepam I usually just tell them that the pills are asprin, I have a bad headache, and need to be left alone until the asprin takes effect.

    I know I have a lot of dishonesty in these coping mechanisms, but it is just not worth it to explain PTSD to every single person I meet.
  17. Hen

    Hen Active Member

    These are great and good timing for me. I've only just started seeing a psych recently and she is teaching me various techniques. I have found that telling myself I am 38 and a grown up and married and have a family and I am safe and I tell myself what is around me at the time helps keep me in the present. I also have my wedding ring to remind me i am not a child (childhood is where my trauma came from), she suggested a stone or something but my ring was good.

    I also find mindfulness good. Being aware of the here and now and looking at the leaves or sky and also breathing techniques, deep breathing from the stomach. My house, desk at work, purse, phone etc is also plastered with tiny little stickers and when I see one I am in the present and safe and I check to see if my body is relaxed, just really tiny little square orange stickers but they are awesome in helping.
  18. Keenbean

    Keenbean Member

    I find this so hard to do...

    If I am with my therapist when I am flashbacking and/or dissociated she first tries to get me moving, and tells me to move my arms and hands as though I were trying to warm them up, and to stamp my feet on the floor. She normally does it herself and tries to get me to copy (with limited success). This doesn't tend to get me 'back' but I think maybe it stops me getting worse. Then she always talks to me and will tell me the date and the year and that I am safe. Often she will ask me questions to try to get me in the here and now but it is usually very difficult or impossible for me to answer at that time. Sometimes I manage, but usually she just persists and keeps going until I respond in some way...let's just say she is extremely patient!

    The other things that help are feeling things, or having something in my hands to 'play with', or to manipulate, like a stress ball or puzzle or something. Something else that we have tried recently is experimenting with things that smell and we have also found that things with strong flavours can sometimes 'shock' me back into the here and now. Hence at the moment I am carrying a jiff lemon round in my bag....complete with excuse ready in case anyone should wonder why I might be doing so!!

    Recently we have been trying to focus on staying in the present when I start to feel as though I am going into flashback territory or dissociating rather than waiting until I am already gone. But it's seriously hard's like a tug of War in my head...I'm being sucked into the flashbacks and at the same time am desperately trying to answer questions about what the date it is etc and trying to stay here. I have managed it a couple of times when I have been in therapy but it is exhausting and I have yet to manage it alone. Will keep trying though.

    Thanks all for suggesting other ways to get grounded, it's good to have a handful of new things to try out!

  19. cat

    cat Well-Known Member

    When a flash back starts I take a deep breath & try to concentrate on something else, so if I'm sittting down I'll stand up & walk around or look out of the window, then I use more deep breathing, self-talk; its only a Memory & its not happening again' or more recently 'its only a memory, I am safe' & mentally going to my 'safe place'. Once I'm grounded I find meditation helps to reduce my Anxiety further.

    As Keenbean says all this is very exhausting & at first I thought it was easier just to put up with the flashbacks but with persistence it does work. it's taken me 6mths of practice to get to the initial breath stage but it does mean that I can manage my flashbacks without having to leave the room, get of a bus etc & drawing attention to myself & making the whole situation worse.

    Thanks Manic & Ursa for the suggestion of a blanket, I really miss being hugged, but it just winds me up!
  20. sigh

    sigh Active Member

    I use the CBT 5x5 technique and it really helps. You name (in your head) the first five things you see, the first five things that youre touching, the first five that youre smelling (which might be hard), and the first 5 that youre hearing... and repeat indefinitely. It doesn't matter if you say the same things over again. I find this soothing. I also have a barnicle I picked up on the beach. I like to hold it in my hand. It hurts a little and I focus on that (like snapping a rubber band).

  21. Flower

    Flower Member

    I have had a hard time finding something that keeps me calm enough to try to get to the present. But one thing that will work for me is lying on the carpet. It's the same tactile thing like other people have been saying, but I find that having my whole body up against a specific, kind of scratchy texture is nice. Just the 'shock' of having my whole body against the carpet brings me back to the idea of the here and now so I can talk myself down from all the jibber jabber in my head.

    Sometimes I also like to go jogging, but since my trauma involved running away from attackers, it can trigger too...
  22. tgrl

    tgrl Active Member

    I stay away from them.
  23. melody

    melody Active Member

    I've tried grounding myself, but the last time I did that, a truck tire blew out, hit the side of my car and scared the crap out of me and my youngest daughter. It was just so ironic, there I was saying, " You're fine, it's August of 2007, you're driving on the highway, the sun is shining," and then bam. Needless to say I haven't driven on the highway since... But the ring - what a great idea! I recently got married and my ring is always there and if I just look down at it and remind myself it's a different time and place. I think that might just work. Thanks for this very useful thread!

  24. blueskies

    blueskies New Member

    So glad this thread continues to generate new replies!

    When I started it, I wasn't sure if it would ...

    I am new to the forum and not sure what will or won't strike a chord with others. Grounding is something I've been remiss in doing lately, as I've been riding a wave of feeling quite good this summer, overall.

    I'm hoping to transition from pretty basic volunteer work to a step-up doing some writing for a local area organization soon, and it's stirring up anxiety ... not so much self-esteem issues (surprise!) but anxiety. Will they be turned off by my weight? Will they think that I'm a fraud?

    You know, the catastrophic thinking and projection.

    But I'll never know about this if I don't try, right? Dealing and recovering from PTSD, to whatever extent we are able to recover (and I think it's more than I ever thought before, for me at least) means taking risks and leaps. Scary ones.

    How else would we still be here, without at least the dimmest glimmer of hope left in ourselves? The pilot light still on, in spite of everything?

    Hang on, even when it's dark ... hang on to whatever grounds you in the storms.

    Thanks again, all.

  25. trapped

    trapped Well-Known Member

    I still have a really hard time grounding myself... it's super frustrating because no therapist I've worked with yet has been able to help me with that at all either, even though I've repeatedly asked... everything I do know and have tried I have learned from one of my instructors in school... there are techniques that when she's been with me, she's walked me through... things like counting and having me repeat back what she says, but she won't count in order, or she'll throw in random words... or she'll keep talking to me and asking me questions and try getting me to answer, and she'll bring my attention to things that are around me, have me count them sometimes... So far when I'm on my own though, I've found that play-doh works the best for me. I did go to a concert last week and there were fireworks, which are a huge trigger... luckily I knew about it, so was able to prepare for it by wearing ear plugs, and under the advice of my instructor I really focused my attention on everything around me that was DIFFERENT from what the fireworks reminded me of, and I had a small stone in my pocket that I played with, which helped get me through the fireworks in (more or less) a decent state of mind.
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