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Key Takeaways:

  • DBT grounding techniques can help foster emotional balance by regulating emotions.
  • There are sensory, mindfulness, breathing, and self-soothing DBT grounding techniques.
  • Incorporating grounding techniques in everyday life can help manage stress and relieve anxiety.

Balancing our emotions can be challenging, especially during tough situations that may cause us to be upset. While stress, anxiety, and other such negative emotions are common, they can be overwhelming and difficult to deal with, especially in the moment. DBT grounding techniques can help us find balance in what feels like a minefield of unpleasant and intense emotions. Here, we’ll talk about how DBT can help you maintain emotional balance.

Why Grounding Techniques are Helpful in DBT?

Grounding techniques start with a form of psychotherapy called dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). This type of therapy helps individuals deal with intense emotions like anxiety and depression. It also allows people to develop coping skills that can help them navigate difficult situations. DBT focuses on the following skills: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.

Grounding techniques are helpful in DBT as they teach individuals how to find emotional balance by regulating emotions. This technique can also help people experiencing anxiety or depression feel more connected and grounded to their surroundings and in the present moment.

Sensory Grounding Techniques in DBT

Sensory grounding techniques are skills that use the five senses to connect with the present moment to reduce feelings of distress and prevent individuals from dissociating. This is especially helpful in helping individuals manage anxiety and other intense emotions.

How To: Sensory Grounding Techniques

A sensory grounding technique that is commonly used in DBT is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This involves using each of the five senses to focus on different aspects of the environment. When doing this technique, you are meant to identify five things you can see, four things that you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. This helps individuals feel more aware of and connected to the present moment.

Progressive muscle relaxation is another important sensory grounding technique to learn. To do this exercise, tense different muscle groups in your body and then relax them repeatedly. This can help you become more aware of the physical sensations that you can feel and allow you to stay present.

Another example of a sensory grounding technique is color breathing. Here, you can choose any color and focus on breathing it in while breathing out stress or negative emotions. For example, you may breathe in yellow and breathe out any tension or anxiety that you may be feeling.

Mindfulness Grounding Techniques in DBT

Mindfulness grounding techniques allow you to be fully present and engaged in any moment without judgment. This is an essential part of DBT, which is rooted in mindfulness.

How To: Mindfulness Grounding Techniques

The most common mindfulness-based grounding technique used in DBT is deep breathing. Although it may seem simple, it is an exercise that involves focus and concentration on the present moment. To try this technique, take slow, deep breaths and focus on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. Deep breathing can calm down the body’s natural response to anxiety and stress, which can then reduce dissociation or panic.

Body scanning is another mindfulness grounding technique that is helpful in finding emotional balance. This technique involves focusing on different parts of the body, from the head to the torso and arms, all the way down to the legs, feet, and toes. When doing this technique, be sure to pay attention to any sensations you feel in the body parts you are focusing on.

Another great mindfulness-based grounding technique that is accessible to everyone is mindful walking. In this technique, individuals focus on how they feel while walking. It is important to focus on all the sensations you may experience, such as the feel of the ground underfoot or the movement of your arms. This can help you feel more connected to your body and the present moment, which can reduce anxiety and stress.

Breathing Grounding Techniques in DBT

Apart from mindfulness and sensory techniques, grounding methods can also be breathing-based. These techniques, as the name implies, involve focusing on one’s breathing to reduce feelings of distress or anxiety and bring awareness to the present moment.

How To: Breathing Grounding Techniques

An easy breathing grounding exercise you can do is diaphragmatic breathing, otherwise known as belly breathing. This involves breathing in deeply through the nose, letting your breath fill your abdomen, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth. As you focus on the sensation of your breath, it becomes easier to feel comfortable in your body and relax.

Another breathing grounding technique that is commonly used in DBT is 4-7-8 breathing. This involves inhaling through your nose then counting to four, holding your breath for seven counts, then exhaling through your mouth for eight counts.

Other ways to practice breathing grounding techniques include focusing on the sensation of your breath throughout your body or counting your breaths to stay focused and present.

Self-Soothing Grounding Techniques in DBT

Self-soothing grounding techniques are those that include behaviors or activities that are comforting or soothing to reduce feelings of anxiety or distress. These techniques also promote relaxation and help individuals manage intense feelings.

How To: Self-Soothing Grounding Techniques

An excellent self-soothing grounding technique that is used in DBT is self-massage. This technique involves massaging different body parts to promote relaxation and reduce tension. Common massage points include the hands and the feet.

You can also listen to music to ground yourself and self-soothe. Choose uplifting or calming tracks and listen to them for a while to reduce feelings of distress and promote relaxation. Focusing on the auditory sensations of music can be a pleasant experience and reduce anxiety or distress.

Another self-soothing grounding technique you can try is visualization. Here, people who want to find emotional balance are encouraged to imagine a calming scene, such as the sea or a forest, and focus on any sensory details that may be part of the scene. This can help promote a sense of calm.

Other self-soothing grounding techniques are taking a warm bath or shower, engaging in hobbies or activities that are enjoyable and relaxing, and doing some yoga or light stretching.

How to Apply DBT Grounding Techniques in Your Daily Life

It is possible to apply DBT grounding techniques in daily life. There are many situations that might cause us to feel overwhelming emotions that we need help regulating. Here are some ways that you can apply DBT grounding techniques to everyday situations:

Use your senses. Techniques for sensory grounding can help you become more aware of the present moment and lessen symptoms of dissociation or distress. Focus on different sights, sounds, scents, tastes, or textures to help you feel grounded in the present moment.

Take deep breaths. When dealing with tension and anxiety in everyday situations, such as before a job interview, during a challenging conversation, or in a busy environment, you can use diaphragmatic, square, or 4-7-8 breathing.

Practice mindfulness. The present moment can be brought into focus and emotional control can be encouraged via mindfulness-based grounding techniques. To reduce stress and encourage relaxation in daily life, practicing mindfulness through activities like body scans or meditation might be beneficial.

Practice positive self-talk. Self-soothing grounding strategies can encourage emotional control and self-care. People can feel more grounded and focused by partaking in enjoyable and calming activities like taking a warm bath, doing yoga, or listening to music.

Take breaks. To encourage emotional regulation and avoid burnout, taking a break from work, social media, or other stressors can be helpful. It can be beneficial to take a break and encourage relaxation by using self-soothing grounding strategies, such as going for a walk or indulging in a hobby or pastime.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, DBT grounding techniques can be used every day to reduce stress and encourage emotional control. People can lessen distress and foster a sense of calm and centeredness by employing practices including deep breathing, using the senses, using positive self-talk, taking breaks, and practicing mindfulness. To learn more about DBT grounding techniques and other DBT skills, check out our DBT worksheets.