Getting grounded in yourself. The idea seems so simple, when you look at it from the surface. Be aware of your surroundings. Pretty basic, right? Well, for someone suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), this can be the most complicated goal to attain when faced with flashbacks, panic attacks, nightmares, over vigilance and constant, pervasive fear.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder isn’t just an outcome of serving a military tour. Chances are, if you are a survivor of sexual/physical abuse and/or domestic violence, you have suffered from some form of PTSD. I know I have.
During my moments of panic, I noticed that nothing helped more than finding my physical footing. When I had sudden upsurges of panic, I could feel my muscles clenching, feel my mind floating out of my head. It was like I lost all touch with my body, like I was floating away and watching from somewhere else. My peripheral vision would disappear, and I felt my breath grow short and my eyes cloud in panic. Absolute fear-and all just from talking about things that happened in the past. Or from being confronted with flashbacks during sporadic moments of my day. Or in waking, with shortness of breath, to a panic attack in the middle of the night.
Getting grounded means taking account of your current surroundings, not of those in the flashbacks. Being aware of what’s truly happening around you, and not just of the closed periphery of your vision during a panic attack.
Breath and awareness sound like such small things, but to me, they were the most helpful in returning to myself during these episodes. Try it out for yourself. Over time, with practice, it became less conscious effort and more unconscious habit.
How to get grounded:
-Most importantly, BREATHE. When you are feeling panicked, take deep breaths.
-Feel your feet on the ground. Really feel them. Think about the weight of your feet. Put both feet firmly on the floor. Feel the texture of the earth underneath. Think about how hard/soft the ground below your feet are. Feel your toes wiggle, or the weight of your shoes.
-Focus on something. If there’s a person in front of you, focus on their face. If there’s a painting on the wall, a tree outside, anything, take a moment to really LOOK at it. Think about describing what you are looking at to yourself. Think about the color of the person’s eyes, or the shapes in the painting, or the textures of the tree bark.
When I start practicing being grounded, I instantly feel calmer. Instead of clouded vision, I focus on something in front of me. Instead of out-of-body disassociation, I focus on being in my body, and on feeling my feet. This is just another way to retrain our brain. Our bodies and minds are so connected, that if one relaxes, the other will follow. This is why exercise can be so helpful as well.
Other good techniques for getting grounded include practicing meditation and participating in a regular yoga practice. Both have been proven to reduce stress, lower anxiety, and help alleviate depression.
See HERE for an article from Yoga Journal on how Yoga can help alleviate PTSD