dp/dr

101 Distraction Techniques: Tools for Intrusive Trauma Symptoms

Screen Shot 2018-07-11 at 6.42.23 PM.png
 
Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 4.11.00 PM.png


101 Distraction Techniques


     When it comes to complex trauma, survivors may face any number of debilitating symptoms — from flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive/overwhelming emotions, to unsafe impulses, unmanaged dissociation, and all the challenges of daily living that become magnified as you wrestle your mental health. Many skills and therapeutic tools can be vital to getting through, but sometimes they just don't feel like enough. You may've been successful at putting memories away, but are still left in a funky headspace you can't seem to shake off. Or, maybe you've gotten grounded, but are too flooded with emotions to even begin looking at what got you so off-kilter. Sometimes you just need a middle step before you can get to your other skills. Distraction can be a surprisingly helpful tool, and is often under-appreciated.

     One thing to keep in mind when using distraction is that it's not a long-term solution. Relying on it too heavily - or in place of other therapeutic tools - can actually lead to "stuffing", avoidance, and increasing the dissociation of what's causing you distress. This only makes it more likely to revisit you intrusively or when you're least prepared. But, when you're really struggling in the short-term, switching gears and doing something completely unrelated can give you the footing you need. Even neurologically speaking, it's very common for those with PTSD to recycle through thoughts, memories and feelings circularly. Getting off that feedback loop can sometimes offer a greater reprieve than if you'd stayed on it, repeatedly trying to put things away. Activating different parts of the brain that aren't overtired can bolster your resources and give you access to the circuitry vital to thinking with clarity and reason again. Then, when you return, you're much more equipped to tackle things head-on instead of just going along for the ride.

     We've divided our list of 101 Distraction Techniques into three categories based on how much mental and physical effort they require. We know that sometimes all you can manage is what's doable from where you're sitting and/or involving very little mental energy. Other times you need to get moving a bit or start an activity. Then are the occasions where a really complex, elaborate and intricate task is needed to bring you out of the place you've been trapped for so long.

      As with all of our lists, there will be tools listed that are not helpful for everyone. There may even be some that are triggering, upsetting, or would antagonize some of your specific symptoms. You know yourself and your symptoms best, so use your best judgment, trust yourself, and just pass on the tools that aren't for you. There are a hundred others to choose from — literally!

 

Low-Effort

  1. Watch a TV show. If you don't have cable or a subscription service, many television networks offer free access, without a log-in, until you get closer to the most recent episodes.

  2. Watch a movie. Light-hearted comedy, drama to suck you in, or an old favorite - there are countless films to whisk you away for a bit.

  3. Sing. It doesn't matter if you're a professional vocalist or can't to carry a tune, singing engages a completely different part of your brain. Plus, the vibrations in your chest give great sensory feedback and the vocalization reminds you of your voice.

  4. Watch cute videos on YouTube. About as low-effort as it gets: puppy/kitty videos, laugh challenges, or Vine compilations - take your pick.

  5. Mindless doodles/finger painting/playing with clay. This may be especially helpful to those with child parts (DID/OSDD) who need an activity of their own.

  6. Grab a snack.

  7. Drum on a surface. Like singing, the vibrations and bilateral stimulation of your hands thumping will engage different parts of your mind and bring your attention away from what's intruding on you.

  8. Play a game or use a fun app on your phone. Even if you aren't a gamer, search the app store. You might find one that speaks to you. It can be a great escape to get lost in for a bit.

  9. Video games. Any console, any game!

  10. Tear out words/photos/etc for a collage. Ask a local doctor's office or hairdresser for their spare magazines. Mindlessly rip out photos and words that speak to you. (Bonus: you may get to put tabloids to good use for once! They often have the scathing, overdramatic words that happen to be great for a therapeutic collages. Shocking! Betrayal! You Won't Believe It!).

  11. Discover new music. YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, so many ways to find new gems!

  12. Wash your face/hands or brush your teeth. A quick refresher can help you restart your day on a brand new page.

  13. Re-watch highlights from your favorite sport. It's easy to forget just how many epic, captivating moments there were once some time has passed. Relive your excitement. Plus, you already know how it ends, so you don't have to pay super close attention!

  14. Gratitude list. When your mind only wants to remind you of distressing things, focusing on 10+ things you're grateful for can really take you to a whole new atmosphere in your mind and heart.

  15. Imagery exercises. Containment exercises, healing pool/healing light, guided meditation, so many options!

  16. Play a board game with a friend. Something simple like Sorry!, challenging like chess, or silly like Cards Against Humanity, there are lots of options to distract you in the company of friends.

  17. Card games. Solo works, too, if there's no one around.

  18. Play with a pet. Pets (when they aren't being rotten) are the best distraction!

  19. Listen to a podcast/audiobook.

  20. Try to laugh without smiling. Trust me, this is something you need in your life.

  21. Color-breathing / breathing techniques. An example of color-breathing here.

  22. Untangle cords/necklaces/strings in a drawer. If this is something that won't aggravate potential OCD behaviors or anxieties, this can be a perfect chore when you need a distraction.

  23. Clean out social media friends lists. Aaaah, just imagine the relief!

  24. Read a children’s book to parts inside (OCD/OSDD). If you're struggling to stay focused, maybe young parts are who need the attention and care most. Even if you don’t have DID parts, we all have a younger us inside that needs some comfort, joy and attention, too.

  25. Play with a tangle, fidget cube, pin art, sand tray, etc. You can do this right where you're sitting, without needing to think -- a perfect option when you're still heavily in symptoms but trying to come out.

  26. Count by 7’s, list all the prime numbers, divide. Okay, this may be more medium-effort if math isn't your jam, but at least you don't have to go anywhere! ;)

  27. Browse art sites for images you love. Whether it's DeviantArt, flickr, Pinterest or somewhere else, sometimes soothing, fun or beautiful images can bring your mind to a brand new place.

  28. Sit outside and pay attention to all the things in nature. A change of scenery and a chance to connect with the earth can sometimes be all we need.

  29. Apply lotion. If this isn't a personal or sensory trigger, this can be grounding, an act of self-care and a distraction all in one!

  30. Allow yourself a nap. Sometimes that's just the only functional distraction we can muster.



Medium Effort

   31. Puzzle books. Sudoku, crosswords, word finds, variety puzzles, logic problems, take your pick!
   32. Read a book. Any book!
   33. Play music. On your phone, computer, radio, iPod, anywhere! You just might start singing along ;)
   34. Dance party. Let's be honest, this could solve most things in life ;) And, if you think you're too cool for that, turn this on and tell me you don't wanna move. If those don't get you groovin' and you're more modern, give. these. a. go. And, if all else fails: BAM.
   35. Watch videos on a topic you’re unfamiliar with. It's much easier to have your attention captured when you're learning something brand new.
   36. Draw/use an adult coloring book.
   37. Make an Amazon wishlist or Pinterest board of things you want. If you can't escape your current circumstances, envisioning a future time can be a nice way out.
   38. Send texts/messages to friends to check in with them. Concentrating on someone else can be a great way to step out of our own mind and its symptoms. Caring for others also helps us reconnect to the world at large.
   39. Organize all the files on your computer. Most of our workspaces could use a good cleaning up anyway!
   40. Wash your makeup brushes, paint brushes or other work tools. Yeah, this one probably needed done awhile ago, too! 
   41. Bullet journaling. You can start any time of year, and the structure-combined-with-creativity format can provide a great detailed distraction. There are wonderful YouTube videos on how to get started or sharing ideas to help you get creative with it!
   42. Create a new playlist. One for sleep/relaxation, one to pump you up, a good one for when you're driving or doing chores, or just one for ambient background noise -- put together something you'll love and thank yourself for later.
   43. Take a shower/bath. Concentrate on all the scents and textures for extra grounding, too.
   44. Clean all your electronics. Your phone, your keyboard, laptop screen, earbuds -- they could all use your attention too (if cleaning won't engage OCD loops).
   45. Schedule appointments you’ve been putting off. Call the dentist, women/men's health doctors, insurance company, landlord, whoever you need to see. Make those appointments!
   46. Stretch/do yoga. It's not the answer to all of a body's ails like many often suggest, but it is a phenomenal resource for trauma survivors to get into their bodies, recalibrate their autonomic nervous system through steady breathing, and get out tensions or trapped anxieties that have been buzzing inside.
   47. Write an email or letter to someone. Send some heartfelt kindness to someone who made a huge impact on you, someone you've been thinking about, or those you've been worried about.
   48. Call up a safe friend/family member. Just to talk about anything and nothing at all.
   49. Write reviews for things you’ve purchased online. Do others a great service while offering yourself a distraction by letting them know what you thought of an item.
   50. Take photos and edit them in really unique ways. Use filters you never use, effects you'd normally never choose, and heck, even take photos of things you'd never bother to capture! Have fun with it! Discover something new and creative. 
   51. Try new ways to style your hair. You never know what new aesthetic you'll fall in love with.
   52. Test out a totally new makeup look or facial hair style. You just might love it!
   53. Follow a DIY tutorial (even if just to laugh at yourself). Hey, we aren't all cut out to be on HGTV!
   54. Research new homes/cars/phones/assistance programs/accessibility devices you may need. These important, highly detail-oriented tasks can really grab your focus and reign you in because it matters.
   55. Paint your nails. Any gender, any age, with any color!
   56. Fold laundry. A slightly mindless task, but one that still requires your attention and coordination.
   57. List your recent accomplishments.  You'll be amazed at just how many things you've done recently that you so easily forget without writing them down. It can be easy to recall the challenges, but the impressive and/or proud memories sometimes fall to the wayside. These can also be incredible to review at the end of a year!
   58. Write a poem/alpha-poem/etc. It doesn't have to be a good poem. ..but, it just might turn out to be anyway!
   59. Watch a documentary. There are some phenomenal free ones on YouTube for free if you don't have Netflix/cable -- and they span the range of just about any subject matter!
   60. Creative/expressive writing. There are excellent creative writing prompts online if you're stuck.
   61. Do something childlike. Sidewalk chalk, hopscotch, color with crayons, skip rope. Or, just enjoy this video if you're nervous about letting little you step up.
   62. Buy yourself a small gift. You deserve it.
   63. Do a jigsaw puzzle. There are so many unique kinds out there, too, not just a traditional 500-piece.
   64. Make a handmade gift for someone.
   65. Take a walk. Down the driveway, out in your neighborhood, through a park, on a nature trail - just go anywhere.
   66. Make your own containment box/journal.
   67. Go to the grocery store and buy new foods. Look for things you always wanted to try!
   68. Send positive comments to friends/strangers. Fill up friend's and stranger's social media with kind, helpful, supportive, encouraging and/or complimentary things. We could all use it, but it also makes you feel good, too. You don't have to be fake or forced about it, just say the things you often think but maybe don't always say.
   69. Organize a drawer/closet. This can even leave you feeling as though you've decluttered your mind a bit, too.
   70. Self-care. Look up ASMR videos (if that's okay for you), oddly-satisfying compilations, or other visually/sensorily appealing content that will calm your senses.



HIGHER EFFORT

   71. Go to a movie. Watching at home is great, too, but sometimes getting out of the house, being in the company of others and experiencing a film larger than life can capture your attention in a way that watching at home can't manage.
   72. Make an elaborate meal. Choose something that requires prep, organization, many steps, and the confidence you’ve followed the recipe correctly -- a good kind of complicated.
   73. Begin learning a new language. We're definitely into the higher-effort category now, but sometimes high levels of concentration and detail are needed to get someone out of the places they've been trapped in for days. A new language is a great way to shift gears entirely.
   74. Begin learning sign language, Braille or another communication skill. Help make life more accessible for others and earn a skill of your own to feel proud of accomplishing.
   75. Learn an instrument. Piano, guitar, ukulele, violin, flute, drums -- what speaks to you?
   76. Build/do construction. Whether you're a beginner or this is your forté, working with your hands and with a variety of pieces/elements can be an excellent distraction.
   77. Go for a drive. Definitely make sure you're grounded enough for a task like this, but if that's in-check and you just need to carve out some fresh space in your mind, hit the road!
   78. Volunteer. Pick a charity, shelter, trash pick-up, soup kitchen, or even just a friend in need. Lend a hand, your heart and your time. Focusing on others is a great way to escape your own trials for a moment.
   79. Play a sport. Soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, bowling, so many options!
   80. Work out. Whether you hit the gym, or get moving in your home, a workout (especially with great tunes) can be a great distraction.
   81. Build a house of cards, stack dominoes, etc. Pick your favorite tedious, high-concentration task that demands your full attention!
   82. Garage/shed tasks. Work on your car, clean up a tool or tackle box, stain a shelf, complete other tasks that are waiting for you outside the house.
   83. Repair things around the house. Fix a sink, a broken chair, squeaky door, bent light post.
   84. Organize an event/party/vacation. Fewer things more detailed and task oriented than that!
   85. Go through your clothes/closets and donate what you don't need. Focusing on keep, trash, and donate piles can keep your mind focused in many places and present/future tenses at once, leaving room for little else.
   86. Rearrange/redecorate a bedroom or other room in the house. Change of scenery can keep you from falling back into the same spaces of your mind.
   87. Do gardening/landscaping/outdoor work. If you don't have a yard of your own, pot plants for inside your home or offer to help someone else with theirs.
   88. Update your internal world. Many with DID or OSDD have an internal world, and some can add new elements with enough concentration and effort. New rooms, parks, pets, gardens, landscapes, and so much more. Give it an update! If you don’t have this, developing highly-detailed imagery locations for your “safe place” or mental escape is perfect!
   89. Go out to eat. Peruse the menu and pick something you don't normally get.
   90. Go out for a treat. Grab some fro-yo, dessert, or something enjoyable -- bonus if you do so with others!
   91. Try a Rubix cube or other impossible puzzles. Learn how to solve 'em!
   92. Information deep dives. Learn about a social, political, historical topic you always wished you’d known more about.
   93. Head out to a coffee shoppe/bookstore. Do the same work, projects, reading, self-care, etc., you’d be doing at home, but in the company of other people.
   94. Go to or look for new public places. Check out local libraries, parks, bookstores, or other small shops you never even knew existed around you.
   95. Clean out your car/gym bag/purse/wheelchair/wallet/etc.
   96. Finish work you've been putting off. Whether it's schoolwork, take-home tasks for your job, or volunteer projects, get 'em done and cross 'em off your list!
   97. Meet up with a safe group of friends or family.
   98. Visit a barn or farm. Ride horses, learn more about agriculture or animals, experience a different way of living.
   99. Go to an art, space, or historical museum. Learn all there is to know; transport yourself into another time and place.
   100. Money stuffs. Start filing your taxes, collect receipts, balance your accounts, apply for assistance, pay bills, do all those yucky things no one wants to do but has to. It'll demand all of your focus, but then feel like a huge relief to be done and off your mind. 
   101. Learn a new physical skill. Kickboxing, martial arts, jujitsu, self-defense -- get all the anxiety, fear and anger out of your whole system and begin to feel strong and empowered in your body and what it can do!


~    ~    ~
 

     We sincerely hope this is helpful to you! Feel free to bookmark it for the future, particularly for those times when it feels too hard to even think or remember what you may need. Also, share your go-to distraction techniques below and help us keep this list going! You may have the perfect solution for someone else's distress!

 

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 4.11.00 PM.png



MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  ✧  Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  ✧  Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
  ✧  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  ✧  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
  ✧  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
  ✧  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  ✧  Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller
 
  ❖ 
Article Index  ❖

 


FIND US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

  ✦  Facebook
  ✦  Twitter
  ✦  Instagram

Dissociation and Survival vs. Living: A Survivor's Story

Screen Shot 2018-03-28 at 4.06.57 PM.png

 

A CSA Survivor's Relationship with Dissociation, Survival and Living:

     
    "There are many things I wish I could help people understand about childhood trauma; this just happens to be one I hear very little about. Like many survivors, I struggle to hear sentiments like, "Oh my! I'm so so glad that's over now and you got through it!", "I can't believe you got out of that alive. I couldn't even do that now! I'd give up," or "At least you know your worst days are behind you. You know you can conquer anything!". Even resources and groups for trauma survivors, as well as therapists and clinicians, can share quips like "You survived the abuse, you're going to survive the recovery!". While these things intend to uplift or highlight our strength, they all categorically deny the fundamental mechanism that allowed us to survive in the first place, and why adulthood is the real hard part: dissociation.

    Make no mistake, those of us who endured trauma as children are courageously strong. We were forced to be tougher than most; and, by nature or necessity, we became resilient, creative and sharp. But Little Me didn't even experience the bulk of the trauma back then. I wasn't connected to the physical pain or sheer terror; I wasn't incapacitated by shame, disgust or uncleanliness; I wasn't aware of the immorality, nor was I having a crisis of conscience. I also didn't even know who was hurting me for much of my childhood - parts of my mind did, but not me. Little Me wasn't facing the anger or the blistering sting of betrayal from those I loved most hurting me in such inhumane ways. I wasn't yet aware this was abnormal or something that could make me feel alien or 'different' from my peers. I was numb, I was hyperfocused on the things I could control, and I was even made to feel special or self-confident in certain areas very early on. While some of that confidence dwindled over time and I became more aware of my unhappiness and "irrational" fears, none of that compares to what you imagine a tortured child feels — let alone what I was about to feel later in life.

    That suffering is here now. Adulthood is when all of it breaks through and confronts you with a vengeance. No, the abuse is not "over", it is not "behind me", it is not "something I got through". As far as my mind and body are concerned, it is NOW. It is very alive and in full-effect. Each excruciating detail of physical pain, disgust, and revulsion; every tidal wave of anger at those who knew and did nothing; each immobilizing shockwave of new material that re-writes my entire life story from how I once knew it. THIS is when my survival is tested. I am hypervigiliant, terrified, exhausted, unsure if I'm even real. I exist in hollowing spaces of grief for Little Me and the life I should have had. ...lost in an endless state of confusion, horror, disbelief and dismay. It is all day. THIS is live trauma in my brain and body. THIS is my battleground, and I am fighting for my life NOW. As an adult, not as a child.

     Furthermore, the dissociative process not only contorts the timeline of when we experience our trauma, but dissociation as an independent symptom challenges life as an adult, too. (..even beyond the forgetfulness, memory gaps, driving troubles, safety, maintaining a job, etc.) One of the most critical elements in trauma recovery is establishing healthy relationships and improving our overall worldview. It's very hard to want to carry on when all you've known is the absolute worst of mankind. Being able to look around, connect, and believe the world is still good is vital to our sanity, safety and healing. But, dissociation challenges this. It can dull your senses, leave you numb to positive feelings, keep you at an emotional distance from love or affections shown to you. It can keep you trapped in a surreal in-between state of both the past and the present -- where you respond to what's happening today with the same emotional maturity you had as a child. Emotional flashbacks, unexpected triggers, and other sudden symptoms that crop up - particularly in intimate relationships or the more meaningful aspects of life - can complicate joy and frustrate those in your life. But most of all, no one wants to just "be alive", we want to LIVE. Fully and authentically, with all the vibrance and richness available to us. But, dissociation has a way of diluting and blurring the world - stripping it of its color and beauty. How do you hold onto a light that you can barely see, feel or trust is even there?

    Like most all means of sheer survival, dissociation has its pros and cons. Just like chemotherapy and emergency surgery, they can keep you alive, but there are risks. They're also unpleasant in the moment and, separate from the conditions that necessitate these interventions, they alone carry longterm consequences. But, without them, you wouldn't be here -- so it's a constant tug of war with perspective and gratitude. Dissociation is no different. It got me through. It saved my life. It gave Little Me a fighting chance. But it also made life after abuse so darn difficult. Because, I should feel free. The abuse has ended, I am safe. I should be dancing and singing and holding everything I love dear to my chest. But instead, now is when I fight. Now is when I stare down my trauma, my innocence, my perpetrators - all with adult intellect and understanding - and try to decide if this life is worth living and if I'm up for the task.

    It is worth it. And, I am up for the fight. I'm going to do this and will do it with grace and strength. But then, and only then, can you say I survived the impossible or that 'it's over now'. This is the battle. ..and not for just survival, but for life. To make this existence meaningful now. I am going to conquer this. ..the trauma, the feelings, the defeat, the difficult relationships, the dissociation. I will also remain appreciative of what dissociation made possible for me, despite its thorns. I want Young Me to get credit for surviving the horror. But I want Adult Me to be credited for not only surviving more anguish, but for learning to LIVE, too."

 

Line_break.png

 

 

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
    Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
    Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
    DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller

 

FIND US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

  ✦  Facebook
  ✦  Twitter
  ✦  Instagram

An In-Depth Conversation with Elizabeth Vermilyea

EVInterview1.png
 
Bird-e1497113097343.png

 

   If you've worked in the field of trauma and dissociation for any amount of time, the name Elizabeth Vermilyea will likely be very familiar to you. For survivors new to their healing, you may not know her by name, but you've most certainly been using her tools and symptom management skills! In part due to her own humility and unassuming disposition, it's quite possible to be unaware of the impact of Elizabeth's work, despite having benefitted from it for years and years. If learning the detailed process of containment, modulation, healing pool/healing light imagery, or the more welcoming takes on internal communication, sounds familiar to you -- you have her to thank for that!

   Elizabeth's workbook, "Growing Beyond Survival: A Self-Help Toolkit for Managing Traumatic Stress" truly revolutionized the way that trauma survivors could not only learn about their conditions, but explore a variety of tools to alleviate their suffering at the same time. An unintimidating and easy to understand look at complex trauma, it allowed survivors to really work at their own pace. Clinicians were also given a new language with which to explain coping skills to their clients, and most importantly, a chance to work on them together.  Elizabeth's message of educating with compassion and warmth, and always including survivors in the process, has remained steadfast throughout the years and is a lasting legacy on the community. Through her continued work in the field, she keeps the momentum of trauma education and care headed in the right direction -- always focused but empathic.

    It is our absolute honor and privilege to bring to you an in-depth interview with someone we admire and value so deeply. You'll get a chance to learn more about Elizabeth's personal journey, her experience weeding through the at-times tepid and contentious world of trauma, and also explore the past, present and future of trauma care! We sincerely hope you enjoy!


❧     ❧     ❧

 

Let’s start with some background for those who are being introduced to you for the first time.

・Where are you from/currently residing? Where did you attend school and what did you earn your degree in?
How long have you been practicing and in what capacity do you currently work with trauma survivors?

     I was born in Raleigh, NC, and I currently live in Napa, CA. I don’t like to focus on schools and degrees because I don’t think they tell us anything about who someone is. Suffice it to say, I’ve spent a great deal of time on my education, but I really learned the most from the people I’ve worked with over the years both as clients and colleagues. Currently I do not treat survivors, but I do train and consult with professionals and survivors alike. My consultation with survivors focuses on managing traumatic stress symptoms.

 

・What made you interested in pursuing trauma disorders? Did you always know you wanted to focus here, or was it something that found you?

     I like to say that I tripped and fell into this work, and then fell in love with it. I had intended to become an experimental psychologist. My first job out of college was at the Masters & Johnson Sexual Trauma program at River Oaks in Louisiana, and I got that job after sending out resumes everywhere I could. They were the ones who called back! It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wanted to make a career in the trauma field.

 

・When did you come to understand the full impact of complex childhood trauma vs. trauma as an adult? What was your introduction to dissociative disorders like?

     My work at River Oaks was my introduction to all of this. I remember going home one night in tears after having heard some horrific stories of abuse at the hands of a man’s parents. I found my mom and said, “Thank you for not abusing your power over me.” I realized how much that relationship means, how it can be twisted, how it can torment a child. Most of the clients in that program were diagnosed with a dissociative disorder, so I learned a great deal there. The program took a relational approach to the work, and I appreciated that. It wasn’t so hierarchical or tied to the strict medical model.

 

You began your work in this field over 25 years ago — a time where dissociative disorders were even more heavily stigmatized, disbelieved and could even be used to question the integrity of the very clinicians who supported their existence.

・What would you say the climate was like when you were first starting out? Did you face any particular challenges — clinically, interpersonally or even within yourself? 

     I started this work at the beginnings of what would become known as the recovered memory debate era, but I didn’t encounter much of that controversy until I moved to Baltimore and began working at Sheppard Pratt in their Trauma Disorders Program. Across town was Johns Hopkins and Paul McHugh who staunchly denied that recovered memories could be valid and that dissociation was real. The climate among those of us at Sheppard Pratt was one of dedication to the cause and to believing people. When I was starting out, the challenges I faced were related to understanding that horrible things are done to people, but that doesn’t mean the world is horrible. Holding those truths together is an important part of the work for all of us. More challenges came later when I began to chafe against the medical model and hierarchy in the treatment arena, and especially the “once a patient always a patient” mentality.

 

・When did you decide you wanted to write a book? And not just an informational or educational book but specifically a workbook for survivors?

     For several years I ran a PTSD Symptom Management group at Sheppard Pratt. I used to create worksheets because there weren’t any around that met the needs of the clients and my needs as a helper. Over time, I had a rather large portfolio of these worksheets. My colleagues and the clients started telling me I should write a book. So I began.

 

・Were there any unique obstacles to getting it published? Did you ever have any reluctance or hesitation, particularly given the atmosphere back then?

     Getting the book published was an incredibly serendipitous series of events. I was meeting with Esther Giller, the President and CEO of Sidran Institute, a publication company specializing in traumatic stress education and advocacy. Let me see if I can remember it the right way. She was looking for someone to come on board as a trainer for a Federal Grant project she was involved in. At the same time, she was looking for someone to produce a self-help symptom management book for a project being underwritten by the States of Maine and New York who were embarking on a massive training effort in their public mental health systems. This is a long story, but a good one.
     Survivors in the State of Maine had sued the state saying not only was the mental health treatment they received not helpful, but worse, it was hurtful. So the State handed down a consent decree that all state mental health personnel be trained in what is now called Trauma-Informed Care. This was the beginning! Esther had located professionals to create the material for training personnel (the good folks at TSI CAAP – Karen Saakvitne, Laurie Ann Pearlman, Beth Tabor-Lev, and Sarah Gamble – who wrote the Risking Connection Curriculum), and they also wanted material for the clients. That’s where I came in. I left Sheppard Pratt to take the training job at Sidran, and Sidran published the book, which was then distributed to survivors in the Maine and New York public health systems for free. I’m really proud of that.

 

Your workbook, whether you know it or not, truly revolutionized trauma care on the patient level. Worksheets were printed out on trauma units, weekly inpatient groups were held to teach your skills, your techniques and scripts became the go-to standard for coping with specific symptoms, and survivors in countries across the globe use your tools by name (sometimes not even knowing where they came from or having read your book)!

・Did you ever anticipate that your work would have such a profound impact or global reach, let alone become the foundational launchpad for which survivors worldwide would begin their trauma healing? 

     I am humbled beyond words by what you’re saying. I can tell you when I did the second edition I felt really good that there was still an interest in the book and that it was still useful thirteen years after the original publication. It’s mind boggling to think it has the impact you describe. I guess I have to take your word for it! I really felt I had arrived on the day a friend told me her book had been stolen! I replaced it for her, but for someone to steal it… it must be valuable!

 

・What has it meant to you seeing your work, and not just your book but your advocacy and education in all forms, fill such a massive void in the trauma community?

How does it feel knowing most has stood the test of time?

     Like most people dedicated to this work, I feel good about being able to educate, support, help, advocate, and hopefully change for the better the process of healing for trauma survivors. I know that every professional I am able to help will spread that exponentially outward, and that’s why I do it. I think it has stood the test of time because the material I focus on is universal and not subject to treatment trends. I want to offer something that can help everyone every time.

 

・What would you say is the biggest change you’ve noticed in the field of trauma since beginning your studies (ex. education, the approach to care, general attitudes toward trauma/dissociative disorders, etc)?

     The biggest change I’ve seen is the mainstreaming of trauma-informed care. There used to be a handful of treatment centers providing good treatment, and now, thanks to the Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.) study, there’s a deeper understanding of trauma as a public health issue. Even Oprah has got on board recently! I’ll be working with the Oregon Commission for the Blind next month because they want to better serve traumatized persons in their vocational rehabilitation programs. That’s huge! If you Google “Trauma Certificate Programs” you can find them all over the country. That’s amazing!

 

・What areas do you feel still need significant improvement? Is there anything you feel is almost missing entirely? What changes would you like to see be made in those areas?

     We need to improve the awareness, understanding, and addressing of the intersections of trauma with addiction and the criminal justice system. These intersections are at the heart of recidivism in both arenas. We have to keep showing agencies and organizations what’s in it for them and how trauma-informed practice can support and enhance their existing work. Essentially, we have to sell it.

 

・Do you have any colleagues or mentors that you really look up to or admire?

     Oh gosh, too many to name. I can tell you one person who had tremendous influence on me professionally. Her name was Andrea Karfgin, and she was a psychologist. She died several years ago, but she lives on in me. She taught me how to think about this work, how to understand really important dynamics in the work, and she guided me through tough lessons as a professional. I hesitate to mention other names for fear I’d forget someone. I worked with a number of survivors who were brave and trusting enough to let me into their inner worlds and allow me to walk with them into the wider world with more confidence, faith in themselves, and stronger boundaries toward life beyond survival. I’ve had many colleagues who were instrumental in shaping my professional development. I’ve had the privilege to work with some of the most respected people in the field and to have worked with the amazingly skillful lesser-known warriors for survivors. What I love is that I keep meeting people in the field who continue to inspire me and who keep me on track. I am so grateful that I get to do this work.

 

・What keeps you going after sitting face-to-face with some of the darkest, heaviest tragedies this world has had to know? What keeps you focused, rejuvenated or inspired?

     In the beginning I wrote a lot of songs to process what I was seeing, feeling, and understanding. I would play music for the clients in the evenings, sometimes songs about them and their struggles and strengths. That helped a lot. I keep a guitar in my office in case any of my staff need to sing the blues. Laughter is important and has always been a way for me to rejuvenate. We have to be able to laugh in the midst of awareness of such pain. I’m fortunate that people put up with my goofy humor. What helps most though is that with every workshop I do, I encounter people who believe, who want to help, and who are eager to learn how to be more effective in the work. It gives me such hope!

 

・·Do you have any advice to new, or even veteran, clinicians who are seeking to work with trauma patients?

     Do your own work. Get a good clinical supervisor. Make friends with countertransference. It will help you through so many confusing moments, and being able to notice it, understand it and use it to strengthen the relationship will be helpful and a huge protection when facing ethical dilemmas. Cultivate a good support system. Pay attention to and address signs of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. TAKE VACATIONS!

 

・What is the biggest thing you’ve learned from your patients, or other survivors, over the years? What have they taught you that books could not?

     I’ve learned that I can never give up on a person, never write them off, because people are more resilient that we imagine, and we never know when the moment of hope will come - the moment of immersive transformation that gives someone a reason and the will to continue. I’ve learned to trust people’s judgment about themselves. I’ve learned to be kinder. 

 

・If there was one thing you wish the world could understand about trauma survivors, or the clinicians that help them, what would it be?

   There is no “them.” There is only us.


 

❧     ❧     ❧

 

     Thank you, Elizabeth for your sincerity, your thoughtfulness, and your humble dedication to survivors everywhere.

    You can find more information about Elizabeth here on her website. You can also order the "Growing Beyond Survival" workbook here (or here). [Note: While the blue cover edition is still available on Amazon, the Second Edition (green cover) is the most up-to-date and has the most current perspective on trauma, so we of course recommend that one. The first is also no longer in print, but Amazon has held onto some copies.]  We cannot recommend this workbook highly enough. It has been the first recommendation on our Resource page, since the day it was made, for a reason!
 

 

Bird-e1497113097343.png


 

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

    Grounding 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
    Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
    Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
    Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
    DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
    Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
    Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller

 

FIND US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

  ✦  Facebook
  ✦  Twitter
  ✦  Instagram

Grounding 101: Featuring 101 Grounding Techniques!


WHAT IS GROUNDING?

Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 4.27.10 AM.png

 

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?

     Grounding is an incredibly important skill for anyone with a posttraumatic or dissociative disorder.  Being present and in the here and now is absolutely paramount to a person's physical and mental wellbeing.  While it may not always be comfortable to be grounded, and can sometimes even be downright agonizing (particularly when one is experiencing intense or upsetting emotions, physical pain, or any unpleasant life circumstance), it is the only way to ensure basic safety as well as prevent additional psychological symptoms.  When we are ungrounded - no matter where on the spectrum of severity - we are immediately more vulnerable to flashbacks; intrusive images, thoughts and sounds; self-harm urges; switching (DID); and many other destabilizing symptoms.  Being ungrounded can also even create the illusion of safety and protection, when in reality it's when we are at our most vulnerable and unable to judge who and what is safe around us.  So, unfortunately, the very skill that protected us the most during our trauma and is what got us through becomes a maladaptive, and at times dangerous, coping mechanism in adulthood.  So, what can you do?  

     For starters, just being able to recognize your personal warning signs of dissociation, as well as where you fall on the spectrum, is a great start.  Once you've been able to label the range of your personal spectrum (maybe from just a little foggy to fully rolodex switching, or from abnormally absent-minded to completely depersonalized), identifying what things look and feel like for you at each stage in the gradient will serve you very well.  Consider making a personal 1-10 scale and describe what a 5 looks like versus a 2, a 7 or a 10.  This will help you be more self-aware when you are actively dissociating, better able to communicate what you're experiencing to others (which gives them a chance to be more helpful), and most importantly, by breaking things down in this way, you can more clearly consider what interventions will be most effective for you.  What you're able to do when things are at a 2 and you're just starting to drift may be completely out of reach when flashbacks are raining down on you and you can't even remember where you are.
     Our list of 101 Techniques here includes interventions that can work at various levels of groundedness (as well as in different locations/scenarios), but they definitely won't be useful at every stage. Additionally, many of these will be incredibly helpful to one person but could even make things worse for another.  Personalization is key when it comes to grounding.  Some activities may also be triggering for one survivor but just the ticket for someone else. (Everyone's triggers and sensitivities are different and that's perfectly okay.  There's no shame or guilt to be had if you just can't try something.  Just keep moving along until you find the next good one for you!)  Take what you can use here and leave the rest.  But also, don't be afraid to try things that don't immediately appeal to you.  You may find that what you thought would never work for you may be the most effective thing you've ever tried!  ..and vice versa!  Trial and error is another key here!

     So, here is our list of 101 Grounding Techniques.  We will likely keep adding to this and make additional new posts as we collect even more.  So, go ahead and bookmark this for when you might be scrambling and in need of some help!  It'll always be here for you. And the BEST part is that you get to add your own and share with other survivors who are in the same place as you.  Leave them a comment here and share your go-to grounding techniques.  Working together and brainstorming through the hard stuff as a collective is how we all heal more effectively, more meaningfully and much more quickly!  So, let's hear 'em!  No tool or technique is too silly or insignificant!

     Here we go!  Let's do dis.


101 Grounding Techniques

 

  1. Open your eyes! (Sounds simple and obvious, but you’d be amazed how instinctively you close them during symptoms, and just how much more you dissociate with them closed!)

  2. Put your feet on the floor. (I know it feels safer and cozier tucked up in a ball or with your legs up on the chair, but pressing your feet firmly into the floor and opening up your body is a grounding must!)

  3. Uncover your ears. (Another “duh” one, but for many in flashbacks, it’s instinctive, aaand not something most wanna let go of easily. But holding that position keeps your brain convinced that you’re in danger. Plus! You can’t hear! ;) And you’re gonna want your hearing.)

  4. Name 5 things you can see.

  5. Name 4 things you hear.

  6. Name 3 things you can smell.

  7. Touch a variety of textures and fabrics. List them to yourself as you do so. Describe them to yourself. Do you like them? Dislike them?

  8. Remind yourself of the date/year. (Or look on your phone to learn it.)

  9. Remind yourself of your name, how old you are, where you are, and why you’re there.

  10. Take several deep deep breaths. Exhale longer than you inhale.

  11. Start separating the past from the present. (Notice all the things that are different from the memories or thoughts that are being so intrusive - i.e. electronics that weren’t around back then, that you’re outside now not inside, that there are people around you that you didn’t know then, that you're an adult, that you live somewhere else, etc etc.)

  12. Look at your hands and feet. Notice they’re adult hands. Orient yourself to your body as you watch your fingers move.

  13. Disengage from staring off or focusing too intently on one object or area for too long.

  14. Stop swaying, rocking, or other rhythmic behaviors that may be trancing you. Yes, we know just how enticing and comforting and mindless this can be, but it may be making things worse. If you’re struggling instead with feeling frozen, try rocking just mildly BUT try not to fall into any sort of “rhythm”.

  15. Vocalize. Say something to yourself. Hum. Sing. ..anything to hear and feel your voice in your throat. It also reminds you that you HAVE a voice.

  16. Turn on some music. (Try to keep the music current if you’re struggling with flashbacks.)

  17. Splash your face with/run your hands under cold water.

  18. Chew mint or cinnamon gum. Notice the intense flavor and powerful scent.

  19. Suck on mints or sour candies - or anything with a really intense taste and smell. You don’t have to like it, it just needs to get your attention.

  20. Repeat a calming mantra to yourself.

  21. Color breathing.

  22. Internal communication. Remind parts who may be triggered that you’re safe and okay, just upset or experiencing symptoms right now.

  23. Name 5 things you can see that are blue.

  24. Spot 5 circles you can see in the room/your line of vision.

  25. Find all the diamond-shaped items you can see. (This one’s harder!)

  26. Find 3 things that are orange. (...or any other rare color.)

  27. Call up a friend or safe person to talk to.

  28. Sing along with the radio or your iPod. (This is particularly useful in the car.)

  29. If you’re driving and starting to drift, grip the steering wheel and notice all of its grooves and edges and seams. (If you’re too dissociated, immediately pull over and start re-grounding while sitting still before driving again.)

  30. Crack a window (this is particularly useful in a car, but works at home, too). Feel the wind and notice the new sound by your ears.

  31. Trace all the fabrics and seams of furniture or clothing articles within reach. Note to yourself the difference between the cool buttons, rougher denims, soft smooth surfaces, and jagged zippers.

  32. If you are lying in bed when it begins, sit up. Laying down can make it much more difficult to ground and your other techniques may less effective.

  33. Journal. Write down what’s happening - particularly if it’s upsetting. Fold the page over into the book so you can't see anything you wrote anymore. Seal up and contain the dark stuff there and shut the book tight where it can’t bother you anymore. Then reconvene with other grounding techniques once it's away.

  34. Write a note to someone, or even yourself. Feel the pen or pencil graze against the paper and notice the color as it hits the page.

  35. Play calming apps or games on your phone or tablet. (If they are trancing, try to play something else or turn the phone off if you can't resist.)

  36. Stretch. Open up your body so wide and press your feet firmly into the ground. Orient yourself to your body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes.

  37. Dance. If you have the room to do so, do a silly dance or a even a serious one. Notice as you regain your balance and coordination from when you started.

  38. Try some brain puzzles like Sudoko, word searches, or game apps with puzzles that require problem-solving.

  39. Send text messages or write yourself a note on your phone. Feel your fingers tapping the glass as you type and try hitting all the right letters. Notice any of the haptic feedback with each long press or short tap.

  40. Pet a kitty or dog or other animal that may be around.

  41. Take your dog (or cat ;) ) for a walk.

  42. Change scenery. If you’re in the living room, go to the kitchen. If you’re in the bathroom, head to the dining room. If you’re in the bedroom, walk outside. If you’re outside, go somewhere new. A change of scenery can do a lot, even if you don’t know why the first place was causing you so much grief.

  43. Watch some funny videos on YouTube. (Maybe even make yourself a playlist of good laughs for when you’ll need them.)

  44. Put on hand lotions or antibacterial gels that have a strong fragrance. Are they cool or warm? Thin or thick? Soft or stinging?

  45. Paint your nails. Notice the intense scent and vibrant color. Guys can do this too!

  46. Take your current nail polish off if you have any on. Notice the pungency of the acetone. (Please don’t do this if you’re extra ungrounded. Your skin and potential furniture items will not appreciate an accident.)

  47. Feed your pets if you have them.

  48. Eat something - you may be very hungry. Notice all the different flavors and textures and scents. Perhaps choose something with a lot of flavor.

  49. Get a cold, cold glass of water. Feel the coldness in your throat and against your hand. Notice the slippery condensation on the glass with your fingers.

  50. Drink coffee - even if you don’t like it. Though, be careful about making it too hot. That can be hard to judge if you’re too ungrounded.

  51. Take a bath or shower if that isn’t triggering or an OCD behavior for you. Notice the water pressure and temperature. Smell each individual product before using it. If the shower itself is what’s making you ungrounded but you must take one, narrate to yourself the steps you're taking - almost as if you were hosting a YouTube tutorial. Name the products you're using and even describe to yourself why you like/use them. (Also, bringing music that REALLY pumps you up can really help you stay grounded if you're struggling with showers.)

  52. Play a guitar or piano, or other instrument (if that’s something you can do). Heck, play them even if you have no idea what you're doing! Listen to all the crazy notes you can make. Feel the strings or keys and all the various textures against your fingertips.

  53. Reality-test with a friend. If you aren’t sure if something you’re feeling, seeing, hearing or thinking is real, ask a safe friend to help you decide what is fact from fiction, flashback from present, old trauma messages or your current situation.

  54. Check inside to see if parts need something and/or if they are keeping you ungrounded on purpose or just to get your attention (DID-specific). Try to meet their needs if they reveal them to you and if they are reasonable. Engage in more elaborate internal communication if not.

  55. Watch a cartoon or kids movie - particularly if you have younger parts inside who need the comfort. Do this even if you don’t have parts. You probably still need it, too. ;)

  56. Snuggle up with a suuuuper soft and snuggly blanket or robe. Feel how incredibly warm or soft it is. Notice its threading and colors. What does it smell like?

  57. If you’re outside, slip off your shoes and press your toes into the ground. Is it cool or warm? Jagged or soft? Squishy or muddy? Pavement or macadam? Grass or dirt?

  58. Jump up and down or bounce on the balls of your feet. Feel your shoulders and arms flop and flounce about.

  59. Change all the notification bells on your cell phone. Each time they make a new noise that you aren’t used to, you’ll be startled back to awareness.

  60. Take any medications you may have missed. Use your PRN’s if necessary; take pain or anxiety medications if that is what is causing your dissociation.

  61. If you are in a car (passenger or driver), adjust the seat into a different position - even one that’s just slightly uncomfortable. Stretch your legs out far and lift your head up tall. Wiggle about. If you’re a passenger, look around the inside of the car instead of out the window for a bit. Then switch. (..your gaze, not parts ;) )

  62. If you are the driver, keep your eyes peeled for green cars. Notice every license plate with a B in it. If it’s a particularly long drive, play the alphabet game (but not to the point of real distraction. We want safer driving here, not less!)

  63. Use your imagery techniques - particularly for pain or intense emotions. Dial them down to a manageable level. Set a 15 minute timer to check back in and observe what level they're at now. It’s okay if they're "worse". The goal is just to be aware of where they are at, not necessarily improving or changing them (unless you want to).

  64. List or write down your feelings in that moment. Describe them in extreme detail. If they were a color, what would they be? If they were a weather condition, which would you see? A temperature? A texture? Loud or quiet? Animate or inanimate? Soft or sharp?

  65. Make some mint or other herbal tea. Inhale the scent deep into your lungs. Sip it before putting anything in it. Is it bitter? Then fix it how you like it. What were the differences?

  66. Do some jumping jacks or just a few sit-ups or push-ups. (You can also workout for longer too, but it's not necessary.) Get the blood flowing. Jog in place. Shake it off like T Swifty and feel the blood as it rushes through you and your limbs buzz as you re-awaken and re-enter your body.

  67. Read a book or a magazine.

  68. Listen to an audiobook or your favorite podcast. Or, find a podcast you’ve never listened to before and give it a try.

  69. Watch something on Netflix or Hulu. Keep it upbeat and current. If you know the oldies-but-goodies are safe for you and won’t disorient you, relish in those re-runs!

  70. Do something goofy - particularly if you are in NO mood for nonsense. Pat your head and rub your tummy. Try to say ridiculous tongue-twisters. You’ll end up cracking up (or being so annoyed!) that you’ll still be way more grounded than you were moments ago. If you're extra grumpy, use that cynicism for a "Try Not to Laugh Challenge" online. The worst that happens is you get some chuckles. Or puppies.

  71. Put in your earbuds and go for a run or a long walk. Get away from where you are and notice allllll the sensory changes outside. Narrate to yourself all that you see and feel and how it's different from where you were.

  72. Progressive muscle relaxation. (There are great guided imageries and how-to steps for this online. This can be really incredibly useful for many, but can be trancing for others at first. Do what works for you!)

  73. Go down the alphabet and list girls’ names for each letter. Then boys’ names. Then unisex. Or try to come up with silly pet’s names for each letter instead. How creative can you get?

  74. Try counting by 3’s or 7’s. Try to get to 200. Then try multiplying by them.

  75. Look out a window or up at the sky. What color is it? What shade name would you call it? Are there clouds or none? Are there stars or no? Can you see the moon from where you are? What about the sun? Any planes out there?

  76. Use safe place imagery if you are having no luck orienting with your present surroundings. Mentally retreat to your safe place in as explicit of detail possible. When you’re feeling calmer, slowly start orienting yourself back to your current surroundings. Start back at the beginning of this list and come back into the room, into the present, and into your body.

  77. Step away from social media or scrolling on your phone. This can be incredibly trancing for some without realizing it. Sit your phone across the room and spend at least 30 minutes doing something entirely different.

  78. Color in an adult coloring book or doodle. Make silly crafts or fingerpaint if you have kid parts that need some attention. Do it even if you don't have parts.

  79. Go swimming if it’s an option or isn’t a triggering experience for you. Notice the water and its temperature. Notice how you can both float and sink. Recreate this in a bathtub if you don’t have a pool ;)

  80. Wash your face or brush your teeth. Do a face mask or use some other self-care toiletries to freshen up. Notice all the smells and textures. Notice how they feel on your skin and how refreshed and alert you feel.

  81. Tap the sides of your kneecaps. Or, cross your arms, making an X on your chest, and tap your collarbones with your fingertips. Give your body some new neural feedback and stimulation to take in. Notice how it feels both weird and rhythmically calming at the same time. Observe your level of anxiety as you do - how does it change?

  82. Do yoga or tai chi if you’re familiar with either and find those to be useful to you. Make it up as you go even if you don't actually know what you're doing ;)

  83. Play a sport that you enjoy (or heck, even something you’re bad at! It certainly requires more effort that way!). Shoot some hoops, pepper with a volleyball, kick around a soccer ball. Or, just make up your own new game!

  84. Organize a desk drawer or closet shelf. Clean your makeup or artist brushes that you’ve probably neglected for quite awhile. Clean your sneakers or something else you’ve been needing to do but keep forgetting.

  85. Vacuum a room or do the dishes. Feel the vibrations and sweeping motions of the vacuum …or the temperature of the water and scent of the soap if you’re washing dishes. (If these cleaning/organizational things will trigger OCD tendencies you may have, maybe skip these and try the OTHER hundred techniques! Or, y'know, just make everything SUPER messy instead. :) )

  86. Take some ice in your hands or place it in a baggie and hold it for a little while. (Make sure you’re at least grounded enough to know if it’s too extreme of a cold. We don't want you to damage your skin.)

  87. Take some pictures on your phone or with a digital camera. Play with filters or photo editing apps/software that you’d never normally pick. What cool things can you make?

  88. Watch a documentary on YouTube or Netflix. Find a subject that either completely fascinates you or even one you know very little about. What new things can you learn?.

  89. If you’re struggling with grounding after nightmares, scribble down the nightmare in a journal - just the surface of what it was about. Then fold the page over or up real tight into the journal (or even tear it out completely). Know that it is contained in there and it’s not coming out again. Then remind yourself of the date, where you are, how old you are, and that it was just a nightmare. Then try to do some pleasing, safe-place imagery type visualizations before laying your body back down for some rest.

  90. Light some candles. Notice the glow and the flicker. What do they smell like? Can you feel the warmth coming off of them? (If you are REALLY struggling with grounding, please please please don’t do this one. We don’t ever want you to catch anything on fire. But if you’re just loosely struggling or feeling a little fuzzy, this a great option.)

  91. If you’re struggling with derealism, start naming all the things you know to be inarguably true. You know what name is on your birth certificate. ..how old you are now. ..where you live. ..where you are standing. ..that it is either day or night. ..that you are either alone or in the company of people. Continue on until you feel yourself becoming more rooted in reality. Then you can start challenging the things you weren’t really quite so sure about. (You may need a friend to help you and that’s okay. If you're a Hunger Games fan, you can think of it as the Real or Not Real game with a loved one or parts inside.)

  92. Squeeze or massage your muscles. If this isn’t triggering to you, deeply dig into the muscles in your shoulders and down your arms. Move your thighs and calves around until you feel all that fresh blood finding them. Notice all the new and interesting sensations you feel now that you weren’t feeling before.

  93. If you are frozen still, just start with very small movements. Start with just wiggling and scrunching your toes. Then try rolling your ankles. Now wiggle your fingers or tap them on a surface. Roll your wrists. Slowly work up to bending your knees and elbows. Hips and shoulders. Roll your neck. Open your mouth and stretch your jaw. Feel all the parts of your body slowly come back to life. All it takes is a small start, don't worry about the rest until you're there.

  94. Take a nap or get ready for bed. You may just be so overtired that you’ll never be fully grounded until you get some rest.

  95. Fold laundry or do some other similar busywork that requires a good bit of motion but also gives you something like scent and texture to work with, too. (Who wants to be fully grounded for doing laundry anywayyyy ;) )

  96. Drink a carbonated beverage. Notice all the fizzies in your nose and down your throat.

  97. Disengage from anything that’s too overstimulating. You may have too MANY things going on at once. Turn down a TV or stop music that might be playing. Leave crowded or busy rooms. Keep yourself engaged with your surroundings but also disengage from too MUCH sensory input.

  98. Keep a grounding stone or similar item in your pocket when you’re out and about. Run your fingers over the stone, contort a Tangle into different shapes, or notice all the notches in your car keys. Find an item like this that works well for you!

  99. Keep a 3x5 card attached to your sun visor in the car, or in your wallet, that clearly and boldly states what year it is, how old you are, where you live, that you are safe now, and a mantra that you may find to be soothing. Personalize it for you and your specific triggers or points of confusion - things you know you get hung up on. That way it can remind you when you aren't able to remind yourself.

  100. Do the same with bathroom mirrors, nightstands, bedroom walls or any other place that you know you commonly struggle. You can make them either discrete or super bold depending on your living situation or understanding of those around you. Referring to these can save you a ton of mental energy when you find yourself in a sudden and intense spell of dissociation and can't even remember what you're supposed to do or think or what coping skills even are.

  101. LAUGH. However you can, by whatever means, try to do something that makes you laugh. It’s one of the most fail-proof ways to get more grounded (even for those whose default coping mechanism is humor and avoidance. Laughing wholly and authentically with your body can still make you more present than you were.) One fail-proof way? Try to LAUGH WITHOUT SMILING. ….you’ll soon be dying over the sound that just escaped your mouth and the ridiculous face you just made trying. You won’t be able keep from bursting into real laughter! And, if you don't believe us or are too proud to give it a try, at least enjoy this video for a laugh. Good luck! “Hurr huh hurrrrr.”

images.png

MORE POSTS YOU MAY FIND HELPFUL:

  ✧  Flashbacks 101: 4 Tools to Cope with Flashbacks
  ✧  Self-Care 101: 101 Grounding Techniques
  ✧  Distraction 101: 101 Distraction Tools
  ✧  Nighttime 101 and Nighttime 201Sleep Strategies for Complex PTSD
  ✧  Imagery 101Healing Pool and Healing Light
  ✧  DID MythsDispelling Common Misconceptions about Dissociative Identity Disorder
  ✧  Did You Know?: 8 Things We Should All Know about C-PTSD and DID
  ✧  Trauma and Attachment: 3-Part Series on Attachment Theory with Jade Miller
 
  ❖  
Article Index  ❖

 


FIND US ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

  ✦  Facebook
  ✦  Instagram
  ✦  Twitter