Dealing with trauma is different for everyone. Trauma symptoms can greatly impact your daily life and it can be hard to manage these intrusions. That’s why management techniques you can do on your own are important to learn and can make a big difference.
Getting professional help for issues like anxiety and PTSD is hugely important. It’s something you shouldn’t have to go through on your own. It’s also essential to understand you don’t have to stop helping yourself when your treatment sessions are over.
By familiarizing yourself with a few grounding techniques, you can learn how to train your brain to better manage when symptoms arise. Let’s cover some of those techniques and how they can help you when you experience a trigger or difficult symptoms.
The 5-4-3-2-1 Technique
Taking in your surroundings and remaining in the present is a form of mindfulness that can help you calm your brain and engage your parasympathetic nervous system.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique takes that idea a step further by encouraging you to notice the details of your surroundings. That includes things you can see, hear, feel, smell or taste.
It’s easy for most people to understand and implement this technique thanks to the numbers assigned with each action. Ask yourself the following:
- What are 5 things you can see? Look for small details like light reflecting off of a surface, or something you may not typically notice.
- What are 4 things you can feel? How does the fabric of your clothes feel against your skin? If you pick up an object, what is its texture?
- What are 3 things you can hear? Focus on sounds you might typically tune out, like a bird chirping in the distance or a ticking clock.
- What are 2 things you can smell? Either focus on smells around you, like freshly mowed grass, or pick a specific small to focus on, like a candle or cookies in the oven.
- What is 1 thing you can taste? Carry small snacks around with you like gum or hard candy. Pop one into your mouth and try to decipher every flavor.
This technique brings you back to reality and away from the trigger or flashback that keeps your brain in the fight-or-flight response.
Honing Your Focus
An easy and quick technique to try if you’re really struggling is to focus on one color in a room. If you notice yourself feeling panicked or experiencing a trigger, think about your favorite color—blue, for example.
Now, focus on everything in the room (or outside) that is blue. Every chair, pillow, article of clothing someone is wearing.
Alternatively, you could focus on numbers. Try counting every window in a room. Or, simply start describing things to yourself in detail. Shifting your focus away from your triggering thoughts can make a big difference.
The Alphabet Game
Just like the game you played when you were a kid, this alphabet game can bring you a sense of peace and calm you down by creating a different focus for your brain.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try listing an animal or a place beginning with each letter of the alphabet. This is another great way to distract yourself and shift your focus until you’re able to start to feel calmer.
Is there something you know how to talk about in great detail? Focus on that the next time you’re feeling triggered by trauma.
For example, do you love to cook? Recite your favorite recipe in your head (or out loud). Do you know the full roster of your favorite hockey team? List them and their stats. The more detailed you can get, the better.
As you can see, there are a variety of grounding techniques that can help you deal with trauma. Keep some of these in mind to help for moments if you are struggling with challenging symptoms. By putting them into practice, you can manage your trauma symptoms and feel more in control. Learn more about EMDR therapy for trauma here. And if you need more help, contact our practice for a free consultation.