by Misha Grodt, MA, LPC

  • Use when overwhelmed, dis-regulated, dissociated
  • The more overwhelmed you are, the more your front (smart) brain will be hijacked. To regain control, you will first need to get in your body.  In those cases, start at the top of this list and work down.
  • For more minor irritations/frustration/etc, you can start lower on the list.
  • When in doubt, ground and breathe – it can’t hurt!

Body-based techniques:

  • Grounding – Get in your body!  Root into the earth, stomp your feet on the ground, clap your hands together hard, splash cold water on your face.  Jump, move, whatever it takes to remind your body that it is in the present.

    image by leandro cesar santana via
  • Breathe- Inhale slowly through the nose, and bring the breath deep down into the lower belly, expanding the abdomen. Slowly exhale, push all of the breath out, gently deflating the belly.  Pay attention to the sensations of breath in the body.  Count 4 seconds in, 4 seconds out.  Increase the length of exhale.
  • Shake it off – Literally! Shake various parts of your body, or “brush off” parts of the body.

Thought-based techniques:

1) Positive self-talk  – Tell yourself neutral or positive statements. For example:

  • “All is well. All is well.”
  • “Calm.  It’s ok. I can handle this.””
  • “I may not like what’s going on here, but I’m ok.”

2) Create distance; step back from the situation and from your thoughts.  Remember:  thoughts are just thoughts.  They are not necessarily the truth.

3) Bring in a loving internal “adult” figure

  • What am I needing in this moment? Reassurance, comfort, soothing.  Give yourself whatever it is.
  • What would I like to hear in this moment? Say it (out loud if possible) while giving yourself physical support.

Action-based techniques:

Healthy Distraction, for example:

  • Music
  • A walk
  • Play with your pet
  • Shower/bath
  • Art
  • Projects
  • Friends
  • Phone call, etc.

Tips for Distress Tolerance and Regulating your System:

1. Awareness/acceptance:
–   nonjudgmental observation

2. Ground in the body and in the present moment

3. Get to know your system’s patterns/feedback loops:
–   sensations in body > thoughts > emotions > behaviors

4. Compassion, kindness and patience with Self

5. Breath is the bridge between body and mind:
–   mindful, deep into belly
–   if we can calm the breath, the body will follow suit

image via

6. Step back and create Distance:
–   “My system” rather than “Me”
–    Try not to take it personally
–    observe, rather than get caught up
–    “My system is adaptive and is doing its best to protect me”

7. Create an Overwhelm Plan and carry it with you:
–    Make plan when feeling good
–    Grounding and self-soothing tools, things that calm the senses (sight, smell, touch, vision, sound)


Misha Grodt, MA, LPC, views therapy as sacred work in which the therapeutic relationship is one of mutual respect and collaboration.  She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Washington (1997) and a Master’s degree (MA) in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University (2010) and is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in Colorado.  In 2014 she completed a three year advanced training in Somatic Experiencing (SE), a body-centered approach to treating trauma and other stress disorders.  She is inspired by Western psychological models and Eastern contemplative techniques, and her practice is enhanced by many years of experience as a yoga and meditation teacher, and as a seeker of various healing modalities. A life-long path of self-exploration and global adventure has led her to ashrams, Native American sweat lodges, monasteries, and innumerable seminars, workshops, and retreats. You can find more about Misha’s work on her website and on Facebook.