Grounding Strategies

Resources/ Grounding Strategies

Boom! You’ve just seen someone at work who reminds you that your partner betrayed you. Maybe it was their hair colour, maybe it was their height, maybe it was their scent, whatever it was you’ve been mentally thrown back to the memory of your partner being sexual with someone else. And just like that you can’t get the thoughts of the betrayal out of your mind. Are there more lies your partner is hiding? How will you ever recover from this? How can you keep the family together? Suddenly you forget where you are and what you’re doing. You feel your heart racing, it’s difficult to breath and you recognize that you’ve been triggered.

A trigger can happen at any point and be set off for any reason. Triggers can be very scary and are very common when experiencing betrayal trauma. Having a few key strategies to help bring you back to the present moment and into your body can be helpful in dealing with this experience. Although these strategies may not stop the triggers from occurring they can help in lessening the severity of the triggers. With regular practice of these strategies you will likely find them to be more effective over time.


Breathing helps regulate our body. When we breath quickly or slowly we are sending a message to our brain and to the rest of our body. Often times we are not aware that we’ve been holding our breath when we’re scared, or taking shallow breathes when we are nervous. Being able to slow down and regulate our breathing can help us send those signals to the rest of our body that we are safe in this moment.


1. Inhale 2 3 4
2. Hold 2 3 4
3. Exhale 2 3 4
4. Hold 2 3 4
Focusing on the breath and the count of four, repeat the same process until you reach a relaxed state.


The 54321 exercise actives all of our senses. By going through each step we can become more aware of where we are, what’s going on and be engaged in the present moment. This helps because when we are triggered we can lose sense of time and be thrown into past memories or future worries.

1. Describe 5 things you see in the room.
2. Name 4 things you can feel (my feet on the floor or the air in my nose)
3. Name 3 things you hear right now (traffic outside)
4. Name 2 things you can smell right now (or 2 smells you like)
5. Name 1 good things about yourself

Intensive Exercise

Doing exercise that will raise your heart rate (such as jumping jacks, push-ups, etc.) can aid in bringing awareness back into our body and reset our nervous system.

Temperature Shift

Splashing cold water on your face, having a cold shower or dunking your head in a sink full of cold water helps our nervous system reset. This is a part of something called the dive reflex. This is a response that humans have chilling or wetting of the head and it can change the way the blood is flowing to the heart and other areas of the body which can help in responding to a trigger.


It is important to practice a new exercise when you are not triggered so that you become familiar with the activity in a safe environment. The more you practice these strategies the easier they’ll be able to access while triggered. Is there a time when you’ve been triggered and you were able to practice a grounding strategy that worked for you? Is there a grounding strategy that isn’t mentioned in the post, that you find helpful?

If you are looking for counselling support in the Toronto area please contact me for a free 20 minute trial. If you are not in the Toronto area I suggest looking for a trained therapist in your area.