Allow me to introduce you to the simplified grounding technique I created. I call it the I Spy Grounding Technique.
I know what you are thinking. That is a ridiculous name for a grounding technique.
Have you met me? I’m the woman behind My Big Fat Bipolar Life blog!!! Ridiculous but memorable names are my forte.
If you give me a second, I will explain to you how I came up with the name and the technique.
Typical Five Senses Grounding Technique
If you’ve been in therapy for any length of time, your therapist has likely introduced you to one of the most popular grounding techniques of all.
You know the one I’m talking about. The one that taps into all five senses.
As someone who grapples with troubling intrusive thoughts that lead to anxiety, I am always looking for ways to get out of my head because it is not always a safe place to be.
I have had ruminating thoughts so overwhelming that they have led to self-harm—all in an effort just to make the noise stop.
When I spoke to my therapist about it, she taught me the typical five senses grounding technique that everyone is familiar with. She dimmed the lights and put on white noise.
While I found engaging all my senses helpful, I knew I wanted to simplify the process, so I could ground myself anywhere, at any time.
Taking Grounding Techniques on the Road
If you are anything like me, your intrusive thoughts and anxiety don’t always happen conveniently in the privacy of your home, where you can create a soothing environment to engage all five of your senses.
For me, the bothersome thoughts can happen anywhere, at any time, often at an inconvenient time, in a room full of people.
I knew I needed to come up with a more simplified approach that traveled well.
The I Spy Grounding Technique
One day when I was driving, my mind went to an unsafe place. My thoughts were not my own, and I was becoming anxious.
Obviously, I was not in a position to tap into all five of my senses. I had to adapt, and I had to do it quickly.
I looked around me and took in my surroundings. I silently inventoried everything I saw.
It went something like this: Red stop sign. Silver Honda Accord. Green street sign. Blue sky. White clouds. Yellow sun. You get the picture.
It didn’t take long for my mind to quiet and my anxiety to subside because once I focused on my surroundings, I could get outside my mind long enough to regroup and reboot my brain.
I Spy—Familiar Childhood Game
Can you guess why I named my simplified grounding technique the I Spy Grounding Technique? Because at the most basic level, this grounding technique is a reimagining of the familiar childhood game we’ve all played at one time or the other, and the name is a very basic reminder of how to use the technique.
Now that you know the why and the how of the I Spy Grounding Technique, let me break it down a little further so that you understand the full impact of how to use it.
Here are three easy steps to help you master the I Spy Grounding Technique:
1. You can use the I Spy Grounding Technique anywhere, at any time.
The I Spy Grounding Technique does not require a special atmospheric condition or location. It works whether you describe what you see out loud or silently.
You can use this technique anywhere, at any time. I have used it in every room of my house, at church, while driving, and even at concerts. You can use it in the company of others without their knowledge.
2. Take inventory of your surroundings and be very specific about describing what you see.
With the I Spy Grounding Technique, specificity is your friend. I have found the more specific you are about describing what you see, the better.
This is especially true if you are in a location with a limited number of items to inventory. If you are in a place where you are mostly surrounded by people, not objects, be specific about inventorying the color of their clothes, their hair, and even their accessories!
3. Continue to inventory everything in your surroundings until your mind becomes quiet, and your brain regroups and reboots.
The I Spy Grounding Technique is effective because it is a simple way to press the reset button on your brain.
Even if the location you are in has a limited number of items for you to inventory, continue cataloging the same objects over and over until your mind has quieted down, and you feel in control of your emotions again.
Grounding techniques are important tools, especially when you live with bipolar disorder and experience times when your mind is not your own.
Whether it is intrusive thoughts, irritability, or anxiety, sometimes you would do anything to make the noise stop. Unfortunately, that can lead to self-harm behaviors.
The problem with the more popular grounding techniques that engage all five senses is that it is not always feasible to drop what you are doing to engage all your senses.
My simplified I Spy Grounding Technique takes the childhood game we are all familiar with and creates a grounding technique that you can use anywhere, at any time.
It is a simple but powerful tool to stop your stinking thinking in its tracks and redirect your brain to a more positive mindset.
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I have been living with bipolar 1 my whole life. I wasn’t diagnosed until my early 30’s. I wasn’t given any information and was sent to a therapist who only seen me for a few minutes at a session. I soon quit taking the lithium and stopped the therapy. I had had an episode of reckless spending that landed me in the hospital. How I wish I had been sent to a better Dr. and therapist. My life would have been a lot better. I went on with my life and from 1984 to 1994 I stayed on track. A family member came to live with us and we really couldn’t afford the extra expense. I went to work in a bank and my life has been a hot mess since. I am 67 years old, am a widow, have children and grandchildren, live with my son, I think I’m saved, but today God seems terribly far away, have been in prison, can’t keep from telling lies at times, am in debt and all of my Social Security goes to bills. I see a therapist but it is not helping. Will God really forgive me? I need a job, but am not physically able to get one. What can I do?
I am so sorry for your struggles. It sounds like your bipolar journey has been a tough one. I wish I had all the answers for you, but I don’t. But I can tell you this. You are not a surprise to God, and He loves you just the way you are–all your mistakes and all your shortcomings. Salvation is not conditional. If you asked Jesus to be the Lord of your life, then He is. Your bipolar diagnosis and life choices don’t change that. I am here to tell you that when you live with bipolar disorder, it is normal to have seasons where God feels far away. I have those seasons too! Please know that even when you don’t feel God’s presence, it doesn’t mean that He isn’t working behind the scenes on your behalf. God loves you extravagantly, and there is no sin too big that He cannot and will not forgive. I will be praying for you. I have a Christian bipolar support group on Facebook called The Light Brigade. Here is the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/thelightbrigade1 in case you are interested.