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  • Writer's pictureKrystal Ying, LMFT, LPCC, LPC

How to Ground Yourself and Stay Present: 4 Favorite Techniques

Grounding is the act of directing energy to the earth, feeling supported by the physical base beneath you, and helping you stay in the here-and-now. Experience how grounding can relieve stress, trauma, PTSD - symptoms driven by the past and future.


Also...what are the signs of being ungrounded vs overgrounded?


grounding skills, ptsd symptoms, healing trauma
Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Grounding is feeling physically and energetically connected to the earth by directing energy into the ground. Much like the grounding cord of an electrical circuit, unwanted energy is deposited into the ground to prevent leakage and protect your energy. Grounding can help you gain balance, enjoy a felt sense of stability, anchor to the present moment.


Signs of Being Ungrounded

  • Anxious, tense (physically, mentally)

  • Stuck in ruminating loops, spiraling mentally

  • Can't focus, difficulty completing tasks, easily distracted

  • Dissociation: feeling out-of-body, far away, "not here"

  • Hyperarousal symptoms: on edge, activated, hypervigilant, etc

  • Hypoarousal symptoms: down, low energy, weighted, depressed, etc

  • Teetering between both hyper- and hypoarousal


Existing in today's world is not easy. We can get swept up into the overwhelming cycles of physical and mental distress, especially following a traumatic event like sexual assault. We can also become ungrounded by stress, such as bills, being criticized, conflict, global news, feeling insecure after a job interview, or being on edge around family.


Oftentimes for survivors of sexual trauma, the brain and body get stuck in survival mode, fixating on flashbacks (past) while also hypervigilantly anticipating threats (future). It is no wonder that people often feel dissociated, as if the ground beneath has shaken their footing. It is never too late to learn and benefit from grounding so that you can bring more peace, stability, and security into your life. Below are some of my favorite somatic grounding techniques. Try these out with an experimental attitude by reflecting and observing your reactions, noting that not all of these will suit you.

Trauma, attachment inadequacies and other painful events can cause us to "lose our ground." - Pat Ogden & Janina Fisher

Skip to the very bottom to learn about symptoms of being overgrounded.


1. Sitting Grounding


Try this sitting upright, comfortable in a chair or on the ground.


  1. Breathe naturally and notice your breath as you sit.

  2. Observe any thoughts or feelings, and let them go.

  3. Relax your body and sense gravity pulling you downward into earth.

  4. Notice the chair or surface you are sitting on, feel the surface below you supporting the weight of your body.

  5. Notice the contact points between your body and surface below - feeling the areas of your sit bones, buttocks, thighs, feet.

  6. Try engaging your muscles by pushing your feet into the ground, one at a time, then both simultaneously. Stomp if you'd like to feel your feet make contact with the earth and gain a sense of your legs and feet.

  7. Continue until you feel sensations in your legs and a sense of connection with the earth. You can thank mother earth for receiving and giving energy.

2. Standing Tree Breath Grounding


grounding
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Unsplash

This wonderful grounding technique connects you to earth, drawing energy up and down through the roots of your feet. Begin by standing with spine aligned and arms branching out.


  1. While standing, breathe naturally and notice your breath.

  2. Sense your feet as they are supported by the ground beneath you. As you inhale, imagine drawing your breath upward from the ground through your feet. As you exhale, imagine releasing your breath downward through your feet into the ground.

  3. Continue inhaling upward as if energy travels up from the soil and tree roots, through your feet, up your body to your head. Continue exhaling downward as if energy travels into the ground through the roots of your feet into the soil - through rocks, dirt, deep down to the earth's core.

  4. Imagine inhaling the earth's grounding energy while exhaling and letting go of unwanted energy (feelings, thoughts, sensations, memories, images that no longer serve you), into the ground to be recycled or composted.


3. Standing Feet Grounding

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Try this standing barefoot on the floor inside or ground outdoors.


  1. Standing on your two feet (or one), position your feet below your shoulders.

  2. Notice the position of your feet - are they pointed in any one direction or are they forward facing?

  3. Begin by relaxing and softening your feet if they are tense or rigid.

  4. Slowly rock from one foot to the other, sideways and front-to-back. Get a sense of your weight shifting from one foot to the other. Even notice the feeling of your body's weight distributed on different parts of your feet.

  5. Bend your knees, pushing each foot into the ground.

  6. Bring your feet to balance as you feel the pull of gravity downward into earth.

4. Light Beam Grounding


Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash

This involves visualization, breathwork, and engaging your repertoire of senses.


  1. Begin by either sitting upright or standing up on your feet.

  2. Breathe naturally and observe your breath.

  3. Visualize or imagine a bright beam of light above you, perhaps the warm sun shining on your body.

  4. Engage your senses as you imagine this light beam slowly infiltrating each cell of your body, sweeping down from the top of your head downward in your body, through your feet, into the earth.

  5. Inhaling, breathe upward from the ground up towards the beam of light. Exhaling, breathe downward into the ground as you let go of all that hinders you.

  6. Continue until you feel connected to the earth below you. Express gratitude and thanks to the earth, if that feels right, for giving and receiving energy.


Signs of Being Overgrounded

  • Feeling weighted, heavy, sluggish

  • Sense of feeling held down, rooted too much to the ground, stuck

  • Difficulty activating and motivating yourself

  • Feeling the "weight of the world on my shoulders"

  • Depressive symptoms like hopelessness, chronically negative or defeated

More commonly, people struggle with feeling ungrounded following a traumatic experience like an assault or violence. However, it is also possible to feel overgrounded. To balance the sense of being overgrounded, you can try techniques such as standing up (or sitting upright) with your spine aligned towards the sky. By adjusting posture to counterbalance the weighted feeling of being overgrounded, energy can move upward and create a sense of lightning up. Another technique to try is walking with a spring to your step by aligning your spine and pushing off with your toes with each step.


Grounding and Finding Balance


Grounding skills help bring a sense of balance, stability, and security into your body, and thus into your felt sense, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and ultimately - your experience. I encourage you to try one or some of these grounding techniques with an open mind. Remember to listen to your body's response, and that it takes repetition to form new neural pathways and habits. With time and practice, you will achieve just the right amount of grounding.



Photo by Luba Ertel on Unsplash

References:

  1. Ogden, P. & Fisher, J. (2014). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for trauma and attachment. New York: W.W. Norton.

  2. Shershun, Erika. (2021). Healing sexual trauma workbook. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

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