Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Wellness > Mental Health

What is Derealization? And How Do You Ground Yourself? 

Updated Published
The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CWU chapter.

Speaking from personal experience, derealization is the feeling of being detached from your environment or body, almost feeling like you’re in a dream-like state or a movie. Most often, derealization stems from anxiety, stress, or anxious feelings. Also, it is hard to stay connected and engaged in what is happening around you, for example, holding a conversation, performing well at jobs, staying focused, etc. There are such things as long-term or short-term derealization episodes; learning how to deal with them will make them less intense. I have talked with my therapist on how to work with these episodes and I will share a few of the things I have learned that help me with my derealization episodes in no particular order. 

Distract yourself

This sounds very cliché to say but distracting yourself is one of the key ways to dampen one of these derealization episodes. Staying focused on one task will help you ground yourself and not think about the detachment, thinking about how you are actively having an episode will make it ten times worse. Currently, I am in college, so I am assigned projects and things to do, this helps me stay distracted. Assigning yourself things to do that use brain power is a good idea, like reading a book, learning a new craft, or even playing a game like Wordle or Sudoku! 

hang out with friends

A big help for me during a derealization episode is hanging out with friends. When I am with them, I try to remain attentive and actively listen to what they are saying. This helps me train my brain to stay focused and realize I am present at the moment in my body and surrounded by other people. 

listen to music (with lyrics)

Listening to music with lyrics is a method my therapist has taught me to train my brain to stay focused for longer periods, specifically during a derealization episode. I use Apple Music and pick a song that I know, and then I open the lyrics and read them while the song is playing. If I see my mind wandering during this time I focus back in on the lyrics and how the instruments and vocals interact with one another. 

Focus on you

Focus on your breathing during a derealization episode, and think about the texture of your hair and skin. Connecting yourself back with your body is important so you don’t get the feeling as if nothing is real or you’re in a movie. Another tactic is just going to sleep, this shuts off your brain, and a good nap won’t hurt anyone anyway! Exercise is a great idea as well; this helps manage those stressful and anxious thoughts. This could be at a gym, or going on a walk is perfect and not a lot of impact if you don’t want to do a full workout. When I am on walks, I try to notice everything around me, especially nature; this helps me stay in control of my thoughts and is another good way I train my brain to stay focused and in the moment. 

Use the 5 senses

Using the 5 senses sums up the majority of what I have been talking about. Using all 5 senses makes you realize that you have control of your body and can make the derealization episode not as strong. Here are a few ideas….

  • Touch different textures, like your clothing, hair, or the jewelry you’re wearing. 
  • See a new setting from your normal day-to-day, like going on a walk to a new park or a coffee shop!
  • Listen to music, like I was talking about before!
  • Smell something calming, for example, buy a diffuser and put some different essential oils in it. Personally lavender is one of my favorite scents. 
  • Taste something new and focus on the flavors of what you are eating!

Derealization is hard and can impact your daily life, using some of these tactics that I discussed will hopefully benefit you and reduce those episodes. Better yet, talking about it with someone is even better, like a therapist or even a friend going through the same thing. 

Hello! My name is Zoey Ryan and I am obtaining my BFA in Graphic Design and minor in Art History at Central Washington University. I am very passionate about people, and telling human stories. I love going to concerts, collecting records/ vinyl, listening to music, drinking matcha, thrifting, and making all kinds of art.