Maybe you have a big test coming up in a class you have to pass. Perhaps you’ve decided it’s time to broach the subject of a raise with your boss. You may be preparing for a prolonged visit with your mother-in-law or trying to figure out how to pay an unexpected bill.
In all of these situations, it’s quite common to experience anxiety symptoms. Your heart rate will go up, your breath will quicken, your palms will sweat, and you’ll feel restless or tense.
You can find relief from these symptoms by using one of any number of techniques. One of our favorite of ours at Manhattan Mental Health Counseling relies on keeping your senses engaged with your surroundings to slow your breathing and heart rate and get back to the present moment.
It’s called the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique and it works!
What Is The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Method?
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a popular and highly effective approach to managing anxiety by grounding yourself.
Grounding is a way of reconnecting with the present moment by focusing on the everyday things around you. It’s as easy as paying attention to the information coming into your five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste.
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is simple and very convenient. You can do it anywhere: in the office, at home, on the bus, when you’re getting a morning coffee.
Here’s How It Works
When you start to feel anxious, take some slow deep breaths. Then, out loud or in your head, name the following:
5 things in your surroundings you can see. These could include your shoes, a painting on the wall, a doorknob—whatever your eye lands on.
4 things you could touch nearby. What’s within reach? Your hair, the grass beneath your feet, the pen on the desk in front of you …
3 things you can hear around you. As you pay attention to the sounds around you, you may pick up the faint noise of a television in the next room, the click of the air conditioning system coming on, or the dog barking next door.
2 things you can smell as you breathe in deeply. As you inhale slowly, what smells do you notice? Maybe a few scents from a restaurant nearby or a hint of the perfume on your wrist. If you have trouble finding a smell, walk around until you find something.
And, finally, 1 thing you can taste. Pay attention to the inside of your mouth. Do you taste the cup of coffee you just finished? The mint of your favorite chewing gum or something else perhaps?
While it may seem odd to focus on your senses when you’re dealing with anxiety symptoms, the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method works by bringing you back to the present moment. By tapping into your 5 senses you reconnect with real life, with what’s right in front of you. The mind has a tendency to takes us away from the reality of the present moment.
The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding method calms your parasympathetic nervous system—the bodily system causing that elevated heart rate and palm sweat.
Give it a try right now and see how you feel. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique also helps you be more aware of your reaction to the situation you’re anxious about.
Feeling grounded and connected to the physical world around you creates a state of mindfulness, allowing you to take a step back and get your anxiety symptoms under control.
You can complement this technique with the following statement:
“Only this moment is real, this moment of awareness. The past and the future are all just thoughts.“
These words of presence can be used as mantra or reminder you can repeat to yourself, as you take deep breathes. You can also use them throughout the days as you witness your mind depart from the present moment.
When Mindfulness Isn’t Enough
The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique can be an important tool in helping you manage your anxiety symptoms. There are times, however, when this technique may not be enough to help you keep anxiety at bay.
If you’re struggling with anxiety symptoms that threaten to overwhelm you and interfere with your daily life, work, and relationships, it may be time to seek the help of a therapist.
Manhattan Mental Health Counselging helps people manage anxiety and maintain good mental health. If your anxiety is getting the better of you, contact our offices today by calling 212-960-8626 or sending us a message through the contact form. We’ll help you decide which therapeutic approach is right for you, and we offer in-person and online counseling.
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