Grounding in Reality

I’m not talking about grounding as in “You did something wrong, you’re grounded!” I wanted to talk today about some techniques people might use to ground themselves in reality when they have anxiety or panic attacks or PTSD flashbacks.

Sometimes with anxiety, panic, or PTSD, when it hits, it’s hard to remember where you are and that you’re safe. Your brain plays tricks on you, making you think you’re in danger, or, in the case of PTSD, sometimes making you think you’re back at the time of the trauma.

Keep in mind, please, that I’m not a therapist and don’t claim to be. I do, however, have anxiety disorder and PTSD, as I’ve blogged about in the past, so am familiar with using some of these techniques.

One of the things I’ve learned to do is to focus on my surroundings. If I can make my brain register the fact that my computer chair is very uncomfortable, or my cat is blinking at me, or there are birds chirping outside my window, that can pull me back into my present reality. Sensory input can break the hold that the anxiety or memories have.

Another thing that works for me, though it wouldn’t for everyone, is to have someone hold my hand or put their arms around me. That’s another form of sensory input, but also reminds me that someone who cares about me is nearby and will keep me safe. Other people can’t tolerate being touched when they’re having a flashback or an anxiety attack, so it isn’t something I would recommend just doing if you have a friend or family member who’s dealing with something like that. And if you’re the one dealing with anxiety, panic, or PTSD, if you can’t stand to be touched at such a time, make sure the people who support you know that. Tell them at a time when you’re calm.

Sometimes in the thick of an anxiety or panic attack or a flashback, it can be difficult to change your thinking and focus on what’s around you. But it’s important to try, and it can help.