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  • Writer's pictureDana Arcuri

Grounding Techniques to Calm Your Central Nervous System & Reconnect to Yourself

When you experience abuse and trauma, it's common for you to disconnect to yourself. You may feel paralyzed in fear. Usually, you feel unsafe. You may have a physical response, such as a racing heartbeat, perspiration, or you sense that you need to escape. Something inside of you screams, "Run away!"

Or you may have an emotional response. You may feel terrified, sadness, anger, confusion, extremely vulnerable, or triggered. No doubt about it, this isn't comfortable. It could feel like a real-life nightmare.

In most cases, people will experience fight, flight, freeze, or fawn during traumatic events. It could be an automatic coping mechanism. The abuse could be verbal, physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, financial, spiritual, or multiple forms of abuse simultaneously. During a trauma response, we may not be aware of what's happening to us and our bodies. We may disassociate, become hypervigilant, and our bodies or minds may completely shut down. We may not recollect the actual abuse. Or we can have fragmented memories. Again, this is normal and common for abuse survivors.

“After a traumatic experience, the human system of self-preservation seems to go onto permanent alert, as if the danger might return at any moment.” – Judith Lewis Herman

"After trauma, you feel frozen in time and disconnected to everyone and everything, including yourself. It seems to take forever to re-connect and become alive again." ~ Unknown Author

As a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, Survivor, and Certified Energy Practitioner, I have come to understand why we disconnect to ourselves and our environment during our traumatic experiences. What I have learned is that our body and brain will do whatever it needs to do when it senses danger. Most of the time, we're not consciously aware of our automatic reactions.

Your top priority is being safe and feeling safe. Whether you work with me for coaching or for energy healing sessions, your safety is always my major concern. This is why I create sacred space for each client. Because they cannot heal until they are safe, and they feel safe.

"The single most important issue for traumatized people is to fins a sense of safety in their own bodies." Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

In my Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching and my Certified Energy Healing sessions, I implement a wide range of holistic modalities. The goal is to help my clients feel safe, get grounded, and re-connect with their own body, mind, and soul. Some of the holistic modalities include breathwork, somatic embodiment, self-care practices, grounding techniques, energy work with positive intentions, and calming their central nervous system.

When you suffer a traumatic experience, you can be triggered. After the traumatic event has passed, you may have flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, depression, and emotional dysregulation. You can be reliving your past trauma over and over and over again in the present moment. Simply stated, trauma can hurt badly.

Regardless of when your abuse happened, whether it was when you were very young or more mature, remind yourself that the trauma is over. Tell yourself out loud that you are safe now. One way to get grounded is to stamp your feet on the ground, gently massage your bare feet, or soak your feet in an Epsom salts bath.

If you had suffered child abuse, childhood sexual assaults, or trauma as a little boy or girl, talk to your inner child. Nurture them. Tell your inner child that you will keep them safe and support them. When you reconnect to your inner child, it's like coming home to your soul where you are free to be your unique self.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk summed it up perfectly. He wrote in his book, The Body Keeps the Score, "Traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.” The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

So how do you ground yourself, reconnect to yourself, and calm your central nervous system? ‘Grounding’ refers to the ability to return to the present moment with sustained attention. For example, while practicing mindfulness meditation, breathing techniques, yoga or gentle stretching, you focus only on your breathing for approximately 10–30 minutes.

If meditation is challenging for you, there are many other options for learning how to center yourself and calm your central nervous system. Here's a few simple grounding tools:

  1. ESSENTIAL OILS - Rub 2 drops of pure essential oils onto the soles of your feet. My top favorite essential oils for getting grounded include vetiver, frankincense, and ginger.

2. SPEND TIME IN NATURE - Touch or hug a tree outside. While this may sound comical, one easy way to get centered is to place your hand on a tree trunk or to hug a tree. Last weekend, when I was away at a cozy cabin for an early Valentine's Day romantic getaway with my husband, I intentionally placed my hand onto a beautiful tree in the front yard. I set intentions of being firmly rooted to the earth and to get grounded. (What a hoot! Yes, this can be a bit humorous, but also very fun and therapeutic.)

3. HEALING CRYSTALS - You can regularly use crystals to increase your overall spiritual grounding. They all nourish your lower chakras; your solar plexus chakra, sacral chakra, and root chakra. My favorite healing crystals for grounding are black tourmaline, hematite, tiger eye, and clear quartz. What I love about clear quartz gems is that they charge and amplify other crystals.

If you are able to go outside, you can ground yourself by touching the ground with the soles of your feet and palms of your hands, or ideally with your whole body. Walk barefoot on the seashore, in the grass or through the woods, lie in the sand or on the meadow, go swimming and bathing in open waters like lakes, or spend time near a waterfall.

Soaking in an Epsom salts bath filled with lovely essential oils is another method to balance yourself and get grounded. I practice what I blog about. Last night, I intentionally carved out self-care energy healing for myself. I filled up my bathtub with very warm water, Epsom salts, arnica (reduces pain & inflammation), and lavender essential oil. Practicing energy healing inside water is grounding, relaxing, and very calming for the central nervous system.

Grounding is the felt sense of the current moment reality of your physical body in time and space. To be grounded means to not be lost in thoughts or feelings, and to be aware of the physical context you are in.

If you are an empath, a Highly Sensitive Person, an Intuitive old soul, or you're prone to feeling disconnected or overwhelmed by negative energy, holding a healing crystal can help bring you back to earth. Staying balanced is an essential part of the trauma recovery work, energy healing work, and grief work. Do what resonates with you and leave the rest behind.

Breathing Techniques to Calm Your Central Nervous System & Get Grounded

In this technique, you will intentionally focus on your breathing. Your aim is to maintain your focus on controlled inhalation and exhalation as well as to count your breaths.

Try to practice breathwork twice weekly. Build awareness of when you may unknowingly hold your breath or have tightness in your muscles. If you experience triggers, flashbacks, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks, disassociation, or emotional dysregulation, learn to pay attention to these subtle signs. Take a moment to reconnect to your body, mind, and spirit. Inhale slowly. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through the mouth for a count of 8. Repeat for four cycles of breathwork.

This isn't about avoiding your emotional baggage, nor is it about burying your trauma response. You can't heal by avoiding bad memories.

Rather, the trauma recovery is about coming back into your own body. To have the courage to speak the truth. To feel your human emotions without harsh judgement. To intentionally connect to and balance yourself.

Observe whatever comes up for you. Spend tranquil time unplugging from chaos, noise, and whatever causes you stress. This is what self-care looks like. It's a beautiful thing!

Grounding Technique for Trauma Survivors

A grounding technique that I teach my clients is this one. It can help them reconnect to themselves, become more balanced, calm their central nervous system, and get them grounded into their bodies.

Notice and Speak Out Loud:

  1. Name 5 things you can touch. (Your soft blanket, your arm, pet, tree, etc.)

  2. Name 4 things you can see. (Your living room, nature, bird, sky, etc.)

  3. Name 3 things you can hear. (An airplane, thunder, music, raindrops, etc.)

  4. Name 2 things you can smell. (Coffee, an orange, roses, apple pie, etc.)

  5. Name 1 thing you can taste. (Bagel, iced tea, mint, etc.)

Here's a "go to" Emergency Grounding Exercise:

If you unexpectedly get hit with a painful flashback, trigger, or trauma response, a simple "go to" grounding exercise that I recommend is freezing cold water. I guarantee, it will not only wake you up fast, but it can shift your energy quickly. A few years ago, when I watched a Netflix GOOP documentary with Gwyneth Paltrow, they said that frigid cold water can help people to reconnect to themselves and ground themselves. They mentioned taking a shower and switching the water from very cold to very warm. Of course, use caution and avoid burning your skin. In the GOOP documentary, a group of trauma survivors jumped into the frigid Lake Tahoe in the wintertime.

"Once I entered the water, I’d charge myself up through my breathing, feeling at first a pleasant tingling sensation but then intensifying, as if my body was a beam of electricity. Once I was beneath the water, I would hear nothing at all. I would feel nothing but a deep sense of peace. It was like rebirth." ~ Wim Hof, GOOP Documentary

Want to learn more about the GOOP documentary? Here's a few links to check it out.

Run very cold water over your hands, feet, or your body. Start by running cold water over your hands. Focus on how the temperature feels on each part of your hand, from your wrist to your nails.

For adventuresome spirits, switch from cold water to warmer water. Focus on how the sensation on your hands, arms, or legs changes. Do this for a few minutes until you calm down. If necessary, implement breathing techniques while running the cold or warm water over yourself.

These numerous, useful, easy-to-use grounding techniques can be implemented in your home, outdoors, or daily self-care practices. If you struggle to decide which technique to use, remember, through the act of grounding, the individual intentionally directs their attention to the present conscious moment by focusing on an object, feeling, sensation, sight, scent, taste, or thought. Using all five of your senses is quite therapeutic.

Keeping that in mind, you can easily adapt any of the balancing techniques to better suit your lifestyle, time, trauma recovery, or energy work. Grounding techniques are powerful and effective. They can work well to counteract the intense, negative sensations of anxiety, trauma, and stress.

If you need emotional or energetic support along your healing journey, I offer Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching and Certified Energy Healing Sessions. Both are done on Zoom and in the comfort of your own home. To learn more, check out my services:

Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching:

Certified Energy Practitioner Services:

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