Saturday 23 December 2023

How to Calm Anxiety Within Five Minutes

Kortney shares a helpful grounding technique to cope with anxiety. 

- Kortney

Anxiety is an emotion that appears quickly whether doing errands, playing a game, or visiting with others. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, anxiety “can make daily life feel like a constant state of worry, fear, and dread.” This can cause an anxious individual to be unable to focus or complete a to – do list. 

However, there are things we can do to manage our anxiety levels.

Grounding techniques help recenter oneself from the current situation. Healthline defines grounding techniques as, “[an] exercise to help you refocus on the present moment to distract yourself from anxious feelings.” These techniques help us refocus and continue our day with a lower, more manageable level of anxiety. 

Anxiety is something I have struggled with in recent years. It became so bad even a little bit of overstimulation would cause a panic attack to start. I decided to go to counseling to discover techniques to help calm myself quickly in any situation. This grounding technique I am going to share with you is one my counselor introduced me to, and appeared in many searches through the web. I personally like this technique because no matter where I am, I can use it to help calm my anxiety within five minutes.   

The grounding technique I am going to walk you through is called, 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, and uses all five of our senses. This can be used to help shift our focus from the over-stimulating environment to the objects around us. 

Before Starting: Set it Aside 

Set your task aside, because whether you realize it or not, it could be contributing to how you’re feeling in the moment. Turn your car engine off. Pause in your morning run. Shut off your electronic device. Pause the music blaring through your headphones. 

Create a space free of the distractions in order to immerse yourself in the moment to bring you back.

Sense of Sight: Look for Five 

Look around your environment and find five simple things to focus on. The dandelion blooming along the path. The snow glistening in the lights. Your favorite blue pen in its wire holder. The yellow notebook filled with scribbles. The crumbs within your car’s cup holders. 

Why are they there? 

Switch your mindset from the things making you anxious to objects that bring you happiness, bring forth memories, or evoke a certain emotion.  

Sense of Touch: Reach for Four 

Reach for four things around you and focus on how each object feels. The rough fabric of your chair. The softness of the blanket around your shoulders. The coldness of the snow beneath your feet and the warmth of the sun on your face. Focus on the way the objects feel in your hands, against your skin. Is it rough, soft, comforting? Attach yourself to something physical rather than being stuck in your mind.   

Sense of Sound: Listen for Three 

Listen for three sounds happening around you and concentrate on them. The car horn in the distance, or the leaves rustling. The AC, or heat, hissing through the vents. Your roommates down the hall. What does this tell you about the world around you? Focus on the comforting noises you hear every day, but maybe never noticed. Let the sounds remind you that you are safe where you are.  

Sense of Scent: Smell for Two 

Smell the air for two things and think of the memories they evoke. The candle burning on your desk with its sweet aroma. The trash cans smelling of last week’s leftovers. The smell of the rain. Feel present in the smells within your environment. What does this smell remind you of? Maybe Thanksgiving morning, or baseball games in the pouring rain. Switch your mindset from panic to remembrance.  

Sense of Taste: Taste One

Discover one thing you can taste. This is often the hardest sense to complete but a great way to test your imagination! If you can, focus on the flavor of the object you are eating. The fruit snacks in your bag for emergencies. Can you recall a taste? The faint metallic or plastic taste of your water. The sweetness, or bitterness, of your coffee. The action of eating or drinking will provide something physical for your brain to focus on. 

Return to the day

Take a deep breath: how do you feel? Return to your previous activity with your new mindset. Continue the errands, or your morning run. Turn on your electronic device and resume your project. Finish your conversation with friends and family. Leave your anxious thoughts behind. Remember the things you saw, touched, heard, smelled, and tasted. Finish your task strong with your changed mindset. 

You got this! 

A few tips:
  • If you are unable to fulfill all the senses, do not stress. 
  • Take as much or little time as you need for each category. 
  • The important thing is allowing your mind to switch its focus from the anxiousness to the objects in your environment! I have personally used this technique in multiple occasions, including school. I have found it to be effective and timely, working in less than five minutes but that doesn’t mean that it works as well for everyone. We are all unique so it’s important to treat ourselves as such. Give it a go, and make it work for you!

Whether you are looking for support for your own mental health at university or supporting a friend, help is available

Hello! I am Kortney, a senior in college majoring in Multimedia Journalism. Anxiety is something I have struggled with for a few years, and have learned techniques to keep this feeling calm. I want to share some of the tips and tricks I have learned to help others who are struggling to calm this overwhelming feeling.  

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