During times of stress and distress, it is not uncommon for our thoughts to focus either on replaying past events, or reviewing future possibilities. With our mind in the past or on the future, the level of distress we are experiencing can increase and build. During times like these, grounding can be a useful tool.

Grounding, essentially, is connecting yourself to the present moment. Metaphorically, our brain is divided into two primary sections. Our downstairs brain is where emotions and our stress/threat response center live.  Our upstairs brain is where higher level thinking and reasoning reside. During times of intense stress and distress, our downstairs brain may be heavily influencing us. Grounding forces our upstairs brain to come on-line by actively engaging that part of our brain. With the increased influence of our upstairs brain, we have more higher level thinking and reasoning to rely on and can develop a coping plan for managing the intense stressors of the moment.

Physical grounding techniques frequently utilize strong sensory input, for example:
    • Holding an icepack
    • Moving your body (do jumping jacks)
    • Eating a strongly flavored item (sour candies, mints)
    • Smelling a soothing scent

Mental grounding techniques include specific mental activities such as describing or sorting, such as:
    • Describing sensory input (five things you hear, four things you see, three things you can touch from, where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste). At the most basic level this may simply mean describing the things you can see.
   • Think in categories (list animals, sports teams, state capitals)
   • Math (complete a multiplication table, counting by 2s)