Dissociation is a topic that many people struggle to understand. Dissociation is basically a “splitting off” from reality or feeling “absent” from your body or your consciousness in some way. It is often a coping mechanism developed to cope with reality, trauma, or an unpleasant experience. It is very different from daydreaming but can have many of the same features. Because I work with youngsters who have been traumatized, I have learned a few skills for helping them cope with the symptoms of traumatic experience. Some of the tools I give them include but are not limited to:
Grounding exercises are things you can do to bring you back to reality or bring you back to a place where you can function appropriately. The following are a few techniques you may want to try:
- Squeezing a piece of ice: Some kids, especially those who struggle with controlling intense emotions, can benefit from this technique. If I’m honest, this “tool” has always been a less favored one for me because I just don’t get how you can squeeze a piece of ice without causing muscular problems!! But perhaps on a hot day this can be useful. The idea is that the ice causes physical sensations to help distract yourself from painful emotions. You can use it to help you re-focus your attention. If all else fails, you can squeeze a pillow, stuffed animal, or someone’s hand.
- Learn about mindful eating: If you’re like the millions of Americans in today’s society you probably eat whenever you have the time to and possibly even while simultaneously working at your desk, working at home, or chasing kids. Americans are famous for attempting to multi-task even while eating. But for dissociative symptoms it will be important to learn how to mindfully eat your food. What this means is that you can learn to eat your food more slowly and more “consciously” in an attempt to be “present” and focused. It’s always similar to hyper-focusing (i.e., paying especially intense attention to something). In this way you avoid dissociation because you have something to focus on.
- Listen to loud music: I am certainly not a fan of loud, obnoxious music but you can certain beat dissociation by blaring music of your choice. I often suggest to my teen clients to turn their music up in their bedrooms, in the car, at the gym, or while washing the car in a public place. You want to be mindful of how your music may affect others. But the goal of this tool is to distract yourself in a healthy way without fully dissociating.
Stay tuned for my article this Wednesday from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/caregivers on dissociative symptoms.