How the “5-4-3-2-1” method is helping people banish anxiety and restore calm

Posted in Wellbeing.
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If you – like me – have ever been gripped by the swirling whoosh of anxiety, you’ll know that in that moment being mindful can be the key to reeling things back in.

Count it out

That said, it can sometimes be easier said than done. Remembering to breathe is a very good start, with some nice deep inhale/exhales bringing your attention back to your body.

But we wanted to tell you about another brilliant go-to you can bust out in a minute or two – the “5-4-3-2-1” approach. 

This snappily-named strategy is easy to remember and keep top of mind, and can be just as grounding as a few deep breaths.

In fact if you find yourself unintentionally checking out of the trusty deep breath approach and returning to your scary spiral, you might like to try this alternative approach.

The idea is to focus on your senses by anchoring each one to a number – 5-4-3-2 and 1. This helps you to anchor yourself, too, at a time when things are threatening to whirl way out of control and you don’t feel like yourself at all.

What is the “5-4-3-2-1” anxiety tool?

Here’s how to do it:

Five

Focus on five things you can see in this moment. Maybe it’s your shoes, some clouds, a pen, a book and a plant? Yours will be different from mine.

Four

Next, focus on four things you can hear. It could be a dog barking, a car driving by, a phone ringing and a bird chirping, for instance. Any four will do.

Three

Now, focus on three things you can feel. Maybe it’s the warmth of your jumper, the feel of your shoes on your feet, the comfort of the seat you are perched on.

Two

Focus on two things you can smell. Maybe coffee brewing and the perfume you are wearing? But you do you.

One

Finally, focus on one thing you can taste. Maybe it’s just your tongue … or it could be a taste memory, even.

Get back in your body

Author, mindfulness advocate, mental health care poster girl and professor Ruby Wax (aka a big hero of mine!) shared a piece about this anxiety hack on Twitter yesterday, noting that this “easy to remember” approach made mindfulness a little more accessible.

Many of her followers agreed.

“I like it,” one wrote. “It gives an immediate response to an immediate need – The effect I get – counting down to being back in your body – the breath and oxygen comes back in creating a different emotional state – opening doors to the choices in the environment – different perspectives.”

“So simple, which makes it feel more accessible in the grip,” another posted.

Perhaps you fancy adding this one to your anxiety toolkit, if it’s not already tucked in there?

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