You may have heard for the 5,4,3,2,1 method for managing anxiety and panic attacks, but if you haven’t, don’t worry but read on!
Anxiety is not based in the present. Think about it when we’re feeling worried, we are thinking about the future, the past, or “potential” things happening (AKA things that are completely made up by our anxious ridden minds). None of what’s going on with anxiety includes the here and now.
But guess what does include the here and now? Mindfulness. Mindfulness originated from Buddhist teachings and Jon Kabat-Zin has been really influential with bringing mindfulness to the western world. (If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness any book by Jon Kabat-Zin is a great place to start!)
The simplified definition of mindfulness is the state of being consciously aware. Mindfulness can also be described as focusing on the present moment.
Sounds kind of like the opposite of anxiety, right? So it makes sense that a lot of anxiety management practices include mindfulness and the 5,4,3,2,1 method is one of those practices!
Let me explain further. When you are riddled with anxiety, are you thinking about how many green things are in the room you’re in? Probably not. But guess what, those green things in the room you’re in are part of the present…not your anxiety.
This method forces us to focus on the present moment which in turn, brings us out of the anxious thinking.
Here’s what you do:
Name 5 things you SEE
Name 4 things you FEEL
Name 3 things you HEAR
Name 2 things you SMELL
Name 1 thing you TASTE
You see…our 5 senses are always in the present moment. If I am completely lost in thought, but then I smell smoke, it will bring me out of that thought becuase my sense of smell is present even if my mind isn’t. So if we can focus on our 5 senses, that will help us with mindfulness which will in turn help our anxiety.
Now, this is not a cure all for anxiety. And you may have to practice doing this many times before your anxiety calms down. But it absolutely helps with that “oh no” in the moment panic.
Try it! You’ll see!