Grounding Techniques for PTSD

May 24, 2020 Beth Avery

Grounding techniques are a valuable coping tool for people suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At its core, PTSD is a disorder that keeps people stuck in the past. Grounding techniques, on the other hand, help people with PTSD connect with the present.  

Finding grounding techniques that work for my PTSD symptoms has been a journey. Grounding is a very personal experience, and what works for other people doesn't always work for me. Thankfully, there are plenty of techniques to choose from when it comes to grounding yourself.

Types of Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques often focus on the five senses: sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. When your mind is stuck in the past, reminding yourself of the realities of the present is a great way to break free. Here are a few grounding ideas you can use for each of the five senses.

  1. Sight--Grounding yourself through sight is a great way to regain your sense of self in a tough moment. My favorite exercise is counting the number of objects I see around myself in a certain color. I also like to describe my physical surroundings to myself when I am dissociating. Both of these techniques help prevent me from getting stuck in a flashback.
  2. Smell--Nothing snaps you back into the present more than a strong scent. Anything from scented candles, essential oils, or scented soaps can be used to help ground yourself. Lavender oil is one of my personal favorite scents to use when I am dissociating. 
  3. Sound--Using sound to ground yourself doesn't have to be loud or extreme. The soft, natural sounds of your environment are what make an effective grounding tool. Take a moment to listen to birds chirp, the cars drive by, and the wind whistle in the trees.
  4. Touch--Touch is another great way to break out of a flashback or panic attack. Feeling different parts of your body and focusing on the sensations is both self-soothing and grounding. Start with your head and work your way down to your toes--or vice versa.
  5. Taste--Similar to smell, strong tastes can snap you back into the present. Sour lemons, bitter coffee, or spicy peppers can help you reconnect with the present. Personally, I like keeping a stash of sour candy on hand since I can use it both at home and in the office.

Finding Peace Through Grounding Techniques

When I first started exploring the concept of grounding through the five senses, I found it annoying. I didn't understand why so many trauma experts talked about the importance of grounding since it couldn't cure my disorder. Mindfulness or not, I was still stuck with my PTSD. How was meditating or lighting a candle going to fix me?

What I've grown to understand, however, is that grounding techniques are not meant to cure PTSD. They're meant to provide relief from the symptoms of trauma. They can't undo the damage that has already been done, but they can help us get through the day with less distress. Finding ways to be happy while I am healing has become much more of a priority for me lately, and grounding techniques help make that possible.

Give the grounding techniques above a try and let us know what you think in the comments below. Not every grounding technique is going to work for you, and that is okay. Your trauma is unique to your life, and your grounding methods will be as well. 






APA Reference
Avery, B. (2020, May 24). Grounding Techniques for PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Beth Avery

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December, 31 2021 at 7:06 am

This is fantastic information. I love how you've explained the process. I've been using these techniques but have a underlying rebel in me that wants to understand why to stick with the program, still re integrating my dissociated self. I use essential oils a lot but have sensitivity due to dysregulated nervous system so I will keep working on using more of the others. I use sight a lot when driving.

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