If you have PTSD, you may be struggling to cope with flashbacks and dissociation. Flashbacks are one of the re-experiencing symptoms of PTSD. During a flashback, a person may feel or act as though a traumatic event is happening again. These happen as a result of encountering triggers, which are reminders of the traumatic event. A trigger is anything that sets you off emotionally and activates memories of your trauma. It’s circumstantial to you and your experience. You many not know what your triggers are, when triggered its likely to feel confusing, frightening and disorientating all at once. It could be a noise,a smell, a movement or a sense of something.
Although triggers are present everywhere, it may seem like they have been activated unexpectedly. Places, people, things or situations can all be potential triggers. While it may appear impossible to anticipate or be prepared for them, becoming aware of them ( for example unexpected touch or a specific smell which connects to a body memory) will help you to cope with triggers. The more you are able to process your trauma, it will reduce the severity of flashbacks.
This sense of disconnection from yourself and/ or surroundings, could be a temporarily losing touch with what is happening around you. It may feel like a dreamlike state. Or you may feel like you are not connected to your body, and/or lose significant memories for a long period of time.
Learning how to ground yourself is a useful self supporting tool.
As the name suggests, grounding is a way of coping and a strategy that is designed to “ground” you in the present moment. It does so by bringing your attention into and connecting with the present moment. Thereby becoming less likely to slip into a flashback or dissociation. Grounding shares some similarities to Mindfulness which is easily practised.
To ground yourself, you will need to use the five senses (sound, touch, smell, taste, and sight). Connecting with the here and now, it’s important to bring all your focus and attention to the present moment.
Ways of grounding yourself are described below.
Turn on loud music , Loud music is hard to ignore. Therefore, your attention will be directed to the sound which will bring you into the present moment.
Grip a piece of ice If you notice that you are slipping into a flashback or a dissociative state, hold onto a piece of ice. It will be difficult to direct your attention away from the extreme coldness of the ice, forcing you to stay in touch with the present moment.
Sniff some strong peppermint, when you smell something strong, it is very hard to focus on anything else. In this way, smelling peppermint can bring you into the present moment, slowing down or stopping altogether a flashback or an episode of dissociation.
Bite into a lemon . The sourness of a lemon and the strong sensation it produces in your mouth when you bite into it forces you to stay in the present moment.
Take an inventory of everything around you. Connect with the present moment by listing everything around you. Identify all the colours you see. Count all the pieces of furniture around you. List off all the noises you hear. Taking an inventory of your immediate environment can directly connect you with the present moment