The latest worksheet in my Positivity Toolkit is about calming anxiety through noticing the things around us.
I learnt this technique when I was having some counselling for my own stress and anxiety a couple of years ago, and I find it really helps to bring me back to the present and calm me down whenever I am starting to feel a little anxious.
Some people call it the 5-4-3-2-1 method, and it simply involves noticing:
- 5 things you can see
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can feel
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste.
How does it work?
According to the Mayo Clinic Health System, “this exercise helps you shift your focus to your surroundings in the present moment and away from what is causing you to feel anxious. It can help interrupt unhealthy thought patterns.”
By stopping your mind from spinning into a panic attack or dwelling on a scary future that may or may not ever happen, this activity brings you back to your present time and space and makes you focus on that instead.
If you add in some deep, calm breathing, you should find that you feel tons better within a couple of minutes!
Do I need to write it all down?
No, it is simply enough to count the things in your head and name them all silently to yourself (or out loud if you are on your own/don’t mind people looking at you!).
Don’t panic if you can’t remember how many of each thing to count – worrying about whether it is 5 things I can see, or is it hear, or smell or which of the senses comes next, arrgghhh is bound to cause even more anxiety and will defeat the whole object of the activity! Just noticing a couple of things you can see and naming them in your head, then listening out for a couple of things, then concentrating on whether you can actually smell or taste anything, is enough to bring you back to the present and calm you down. Believe me, I’ve done it!
However, if you are in a position to write the things down, then this will slow the whole process even further and increase your focus on the present moment, as it will take longer to complete the activity and take your mind off your anxiety for longer.
Furthermore, the more you practise the activity by writing things down, the less likely you are to panic about which sense goes with which number the next time you are in an anxious state and need to call on this amazing tool to help you relax.
Click below to download the worksheet: