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For most clients suffering anxiety symptoms, most breathing and relaxation techniques are effective; however, for sufferers of panic or trauma, some relaxation and breathing strategies can occasionally trigger flashbacks, intrusive memories, panic, fear, and dissociation. AOD workers can assist these clients and reduce traumatic and panic reactions by focusing the attention of these clients on the outside world rather than the internal trauma. This process is known as ‘grounding’ (or distraction, centering, or healthy detachment) [1995].

There are different forms of grounding outlined below; different strategies work best for different clients, and it is important to use a strategy appropriate to the individual. The examples of grounding techniques provided below are adapted from Najavits and Peckham [702, 1995].

Examples of mental grounding:

  • Describe objects in your environment in detail using all your senses.
  • Describe an everyday activity, such as eating or driving to work, in detail.
  • Use a grounding statement. ‘I am Jo, I am 23 years old, I am safe here, today is...’.
  • Say the alphabet slowly.
  • Counting backwards from 20.

Examples of physical grounding:

  • Run cool or warm water over your hands.
  • Press your heels into the floor.
  • Touch objects around you as you say their names.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Change your posture to a more upright one.
  • Stretch.
  • As you inhale say ‘in’, and when you exhale say ‘out’ or ‘calm’ or ‘easy’ or ‘safe’.
  • Ask for a hug from a trusted person.

Examples of soothing grounding:

  • Rub nice smelling hand cream slowly into hands and arms and notice the feel and smell.
  • Say encouraging statements to yourself such as ‘You’re okay, you’ll get through this’.
  • Think of favourites of any kind of object (e.g., cars) or animal.
  • Look at photographs of people or animals you care about.
  • Think of a place where you felt calm and peaceful, describe where you were, what was around you and what you were doing.
  • Plan something nice for yourself such as a bath or a good meal.
  • Think of things you look forward to doing in the next few days.
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