A PTSD grounding kit is a toolbox of physically tangible resources that can help someone who is experiencing a trauma response.
Within the kit are objects that bring comfort (like blankets and stuffed animals), things that distract (like puzzles and games), and things that help trauma survivors ground mindfully into the safety of the present (like yoga supplies and snacks). By using this list to create a small box or tub of resources, you can make sure that your home, classroom, or workspace is a safer place for trauma survivors.
A Vision for Grounding Spaces
It’s a strange thing that areas are still designated for smoke breaks and offices provide kitchens, but even though 70% of people have experienced trauma (source), if we find ourselves on the brink of bursting into tears at work or school, often a bathroom is the only place to retreat to.
What if we carved out space- both physically and culturally- to take mental health breaks? I hope that this resource might introduce this idea in an approachable, easy-to-accomplish way, and that through sharing it with parents, teachers, and employers, it might contribute to a tiny shift that ripples to create an impact.
How to Build a Trauma Informed Care Kit for Grounding
For me, the most exciting part of creating art in this realm is imagining how it moves into the world and creates tiny shifts in thinking, healing spaces in relationships, and changes in how we engage one another.
Translating something (mental health information) that is too often only available to people who have the privilege of education and/or supportive therapy, or the disadvantage of having a diagnosis or trauma history that necessitates treatment and learning.
Because mental health education is often limited to treatment contexts, the folks in the middle- many of them parents, teachers, managers, and other people with roles that shape and influence others- often don’t get access to opportunities to learn about mental health and effective support strategies. They’re who I had in mind as I created this resource.
Download this Printable Guide to Making a Trauma-Informed Grounding Kit
Download this Printable Guide to Making a Trauma-Informed Grounding Kit
FREE OPTION: Download a free text-based version of this handout here.
Print & Share Below
Printing: This is an 8.5×8.5″ square booklet. Select “fit to page” in the print dialogue to print on an 8.5×11 page, then use a paper cutter to cut the pages to square before stapling and distributing.
Sharing: Like my other resources, this PDF booklet can be printed and shared with clients or groups that you work directly with (or sent directly to virtual clients). If you are a k-12 teacher it can be used in your classroom. Publication or reproduction in wider realms (aka workshops, online courses, etc) is often free for non-profits and patrons, but please review my republishing policy and reach out for permission before republishing.
How to Set Up your Grounding Kit:
First, you’ll need something to hold your kit and a thoughtful place to put it.
To hold your trauma grounding kit, you can use a cardboard box or a plastic tote box– even a large bag can work for holding all the grounding objects inside.
Choosing where to place your trauma grounding kit matters. The location should be someplace quiet, not a central area with lots of people around. Also, the kit should be placed in an area nice to sit in- no one wants to feel banished to a dusty corner or supply closet when they’re struggling. In workplaces with excess spaces for nursing mothers, a nursing mothers’ room may be able to serve dual use as a space for mental health moments.
Make sure your kit is well marked and that people in your household, classroom, or community know that the resource is there, available to anyone, and ok to use.
The following section may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, these links help make my art sustainable.
Squishy toys to hold & squeeze
When we are triggered, our bodies may experience unpleasant or overwhelming sensations (called body memories). Movement can help us to transfer the energy that is floating around our whole body into one specific place in our body. When bigger movements like taking a walk aren’t a possibility or don’t feel safe, squishy toys to hold in our hands as we touch, manipulate, and/or squeeze and squish the toy can be a very grounding experience.
Books, music, & safe distractions
Redirecting our focus and attention into engaging books, music, or other distracting materials can help us get some distance from the trauma trigger so that our brains and bodies can shift gears and decompress.
The key here is a safe distraction. When creating a kit to support grounding after being triggered, it’s important to choose materials that won’t reinforce the trigger. In other words, distraction items in your kit might include wordsearch booklets, a campy mystery novel, or music- but probably shouldn’t include emotionally intense reading, violent video games, or podcasts on challenging topics.
Blank journal(s) for processing
When thoughts are swirling after a triggering event, it can be helpful to ground the mind by literally getting those thoughts out through putting pen to paper. Having a journal on hand in a trauma-informed care kit allows the mind to sort of dump out all the thoughts inside and make sense of what needs to be processed.
*If your trauma grounding kit is shared, like in a classroom or other shared space, be sure to steward resources that shouldn’t be shared- like journals. Instead, encourage users to take the journal with them and replace it.
Supplies for gentle yoga and mindful movement
Yoga (or any form of gentle and mindful movement) helps to connect the mind and body in a subtle yet powerful way that can help us ground ourselves after being triggered.
Whether it is breath-work to reset your breathing pattern, a corpse pose to allow your body to rest and gently ground into the earth, or a simple sequence of vinyasa yoga poses, yoga can used gentle stretches to connect breath and body to feel more grounded.
For many people, even 2-3 minutes of mindful breathing while stretching can ease trauma responses, while others might benefit from longer format options like on demand yoga classes.
Expressive art supplies
Triggering experiences surface emotions, sensations, memories, feelings, etc. that can overwhelm the mind and body. Although some of us benefit from journaling these thoughts, for some people it’s important to have access to expressive art supplies to capture these experiences. Having an outlet to channel the expression of those surfaced experiences can be deeply therapeutic, and can allow the mind and body to release those held sensations and to ground in the present moment.
Curated sets of art supplies (like this one at Amazon or this collection offered by a small business on etsy)
Snacks (crunchy + sour can be extra grounding)
Our sense of taste (and the process of chewing) can be a very grounding, mindful experience.
Focusing on the feeling of the food in our mouths, the taste of the specific food, the movement of our jaw as we chew and how many times we have to chew it can make the experience especially grounding – but when we’re very upset simply snacking actually can help (and despite the messages of diet culture – that’s ok! As long as it’s one tool of many coping strategies we can use).
Having snacks on hand in a trauma trigger grounding kit- especially crunchy, hot, or sour options that pack a “POW” of sensation that can help wake us up to our body’s sensations offers a unique and bodily way to ground ourselves after a triggering experience.
Crunchy individually packaged snacks (like a case of hippeas at Amazon, or this snack assortment gift basket from etsy)
Sour individually packaged snacks (like these sour gummies at Amazon, or this Etsy seller’s crunchy freeze dried sour gummies)
Soft, cuddly stuffed things
When big emotions are present, sometimes a soft comfort object (like a just-the-right-squishiness pillow or stuffed animal) can help us calm our bodies and slow our thoughts. Some trauma survivors may connect with the soft expressions and gentle presence of a stuffed animal, while others may find that just the tactile experience of petting soft fur brings soothing.
Objects interesting to hold and look at
Similar to having squishy toys in the kit, having something to hold and look at can help ground the mind and body.
Triggering events draw our attention away from our embodied experience, and so helping someone ground after being triggered often includes physical, tactile experiences. Something interesting to hold and look at – like a gem or stone – can be a valuable addition to a trauma grounding kit. Holding a smooth, heavy rock or studying the way light moves through a crystal can help connect and channel focus into one place, which allows the mind and body to be grounded in the moment.
An expanding/collapsing toy great for breathing exercises (find one here at Amazon)
Stones or crystals, for the grounding texture, weight, and meaning a particular person might assign to their composition (get a set of small crystals and gemstones at Amazon, or support a small seller and purchase polished crystals or palm stones on Etsy.)
Cards & notes with kind messages to open & read
Having notes and cards in a trauma-informed care kit can be a fresh breath of air, especially when a triggering experience may create lingering intrusive thoughts.
Shared thoughts from other minds – especially kind and caring words from people we love or respect – can help us to ground and reorient ourselves.
Blank Cards for you or your team to fill out and pack into your kit (start with this botanical blank card set on Etsy.)
A soft, fuzzy blanket
Similar to having soft, cuddly stuffed things, having a soft, fuzzy blanket can be a useful tool to keep in a trauma-informed care kit because comfortable items can sometimes motivate our minds and bodies to slow down. The process of slowing can ground us, and having a blanket to wrap around our bodies can feel like a hug.
Puzzle or calming problem-solving game
Puzzles are fun and engrossing. They engage problem-solving parts of our brain and help provide a welcome distraction. For many of us seeking to be grounded after being triggered by a trauma trigger, distraction can be a helpful tool to help us calm down until we’re in a better place to engage.
Pictures (of outdoors, pets, or safe people)
Just as the sense of taste, touch, and sound can be helpful in grounding the body after a triggering event, so can utilizing the sense of sight. Having pictures on hand of the outdoors, pets, or safe people can assist in moving the mind from its current, disrupted state to a state of calm. Research shows that viewing outdoor scenes stimulates cognitive functioning and may also have an impact on affect, specifically aspects of anxiety and rumination. Similarly, seeing pictures of pets or safe people can help the mind channel focus to the associated memories and feelings those faces bring to mind.
What Does it Mean to be Trauma Informed?
“Trauma-Informed” is a phrase used by professionals that means they have awareness and education around trauma and how it impacts body and behavior.
For example, during the course of a routine exam, a trauma-informed physician notices their patient has gone silent and rigid. Rather than ignore this input or reactively assume they have done something wrong, a trauma-informed doctor might stop the exam and coach their patient through a grounding exercise before checking in whether the patient wants to continue with the exam and providing mental health referrals as needed. A trauma informed childcare provider might, upon being informed by the caregivers of a traumatic history, respond to an 8-year-old boy’s aggressive outbursts by validating how angry it makes him to feel powerless and redirecting the anger, while also setting safe and healthy boundaries.
For those of us who work with individuals as teachers, managers/employers, or in personal relationships, one way we can be ready to respond compassionately when a student, client, employee, or friend is triggered traumatically is by having a trauma-informed care kit on standby ready to help trauma survivors get grounded and back into their window of tolerance.