Please read Walking…#1: Introduction before this or any other post in this Series. Thank you.
Six ways to ground yourself when you notice the early stages of an overwhelming emotion building (eg, panic, fear, anxiety)
I find these particularly help me. The aim is not to deny or stop feeling the emotion, but to reach a safe state where you are not overwhelmed with distress or driven to compulsive actions, and where you can perhaps begin to recognise your emotions and also recognise that they are not permanent and are not all there is of you or of the world – they are valid and they are allowed and also, they will sometime, somehow, pass.
I know the ideas below sound as if they couldn’t possibly make any difference when you’re feeling terrible but somehow, sometimes, they do. I was taught that it is good to practice using them when you are feeling okay, so that they become familiar, and to try to use them as early on as you can when you first feel your emotions rising, because when you are already in a state of peaked, extreme emotion, it can be too difficult to be able to try to use them.
- Step outside if you can, or if not, just into another room. Notice all the sensations around you. What does the ground feel like under your feet? What can you hear? What can you see? Can you touch anything – the wall, the door? What does it feel like? You are here and now. These things you see around you are concrete. They will remain. The emotion, no matter how terrifying, really will somehow pass.
- Touch a favourite object. What does the surface feel like? What colour is it? Does the sensation of touch calm you? Is it an object that reminds you of a happy time or place or someone you love?
- Count backwards in [threes] from 100 to 0. [Especially occupies your attention if, like me, you are not very good at maths/logic 😉 !]
- Clench and unclench your hands rapidly, focussing on the sensations in your muscles and on your skin.
- Make a hot drink. Hold the cup whilst it’s still hot. Focus on the sensation of the spreading heat relaxing the muscles in your hands. Breathe in and out deeply and focus on the scent of the drink or the warmth of the rising steam.
- Repeat a grounding “safety statement”, even if you can’t really believe it at first. For example (replace the […] as appropriate): “I am [Jane Doe]. The date is [5 December 2015]. I am  years old. I am [in my room in my flat] in [name city]. I am in the present, not the past. I am safe now.” I am relatively new to using safety statements but my CPN told me that this is a good way to recover from flashbacks / re-experiencing memories.
I’ve decided to start a new series which I’ve called “Walking this Borderland”. I’m going to try to make each post in this series short and readable. My idea is that each will share an idea, skill, or thought that I find helpful in coping with an aspect of the symptoms of my Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of these are things that have been suggested to me by health professionals. Some are ideas a friend (perhaps who also has BPD) has given me permission to share. Some I have come up with or encountered myself in my path living with BPD.
I am sharing these in the hope others may find them interesting or helpful. Perhaps if you suffer with BPD or another Personality Disorder or know someone who does, you may find they are things you can identify with or are relevant or helpful to you. Perhaps they might equally be helpful to people who struggle with other mental health conditions – or even to anyone curious about emotions. Perhaps as a reader you would like to share your own experiences and ideas that help you, in the comments. I’d love it if you did want to do that.
As I have said many times before on this blog, what I’m sharing is personal and every person is very different in what is helpful to them or how they experience emotions. I really hope there is nothing I post in this “Walking…” series that would be unhelpful to anyone reading but please bear in mind that I am only sharing from my experience. Though I have worked in many mental health treatment settings and had some non-clinical training, and receive therapy myself, I am not a doctor, I am not clinically trained, I am not medically qualified to provide support or help to people with a mental health condition. So whilst I hope that this series is going to be useful, I very much urge you to please please access and rely on support from clinicians who are trained to help you.
Currently, one of my preferred ways to relax whilst I’m alone at home watching TV or the like, is colouring in complex swirly patterns like this one. It can switch off some of the thoughts for a while, passes time and gives a creative focus outside of oneself, even a way to practice mindfulness. The results can even be used for something pretty, for instance, made into pictures or coasters. Seeing something lovely that you have managed to create, despite perhaps feeling depressed or low, can be encouraging. It is a relatively cheap hobby, especially as at the moment we seem to be fortunate that there is a range of “colouring books for grown-ups” around, often to be found in discount book stores / stationers’ / supermarkets. No doubt you could find template patterns on line as well, which could work if you have access to a printer. Then all that is required is a packet of crayons or coloured pens (note to self, curb tendency to multi-buy pretty pens!).
Happy colouring! 🙂