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Explore The 5–4–3–2–1 Coping Technique For Anxiety

Are you out of focus? Try grounding yourself with this easy and innovative practice.


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Lisa Bradburn

3 years ago | 2 min read

Anxiety can be debilitating. At times I witness the effects on a close family member who becomes overwhelmed, cannot breathe, and loses their ground. We hear the phrase “find your ground” quite a lot. But what does this statement mean, and how can a person recoup themself once again? The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique addresses this challenge.

First, let’s explore the definition. Grounding yourself is the process of balancing your physical, emotional, mental, and energy state and reconnecting them. Therapistaid.com states:

Grounding techniques help control these symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment. In this article, you will learn four powerful grounding techniques for managing the symptoms of trauma.

In Gestalt psychotherapy, we talk a lot about the figure-ground relationship. According to this principle, people tend to segment the visual world into the figure and ground. The figure is the object or person that is the focus of the visual field, while the ground is the background. In the following exercise, let’s explore bringing the background into the forefront and finding oneself in there ‘here and now,’ building awareness of self and self in the environment.

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Exercise

The purpose of the exercise is to slow down, be still for a moment where ever you are. Take in the details of your surroundings using each of your senses. Strive to notice small details that your mind would usually tune out, such as distant sounds or the texture of an ordinary object.

  • 5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you.
  • 4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you.
  • 3: Acknowledge THREE things you can hear.
  • 2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.
  • 1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. Taste is sometimes hard to identify; you can substitute this by thinking of your favorite thing to taste.

Here is a memorable chart if you’re seeking an easy graphic to print, tape, and remind yourself of the practice.

Graphic courtesy of Therapistaid.com
Graphic courtesy of Therapistaid.com

Once you practice each of the five senses, do you feel integrated and a part of your environment? Did you notice something you haven’t before? What was the experience like for you?

The next time you feel anxious, like you’re walking on uneven ground, remember the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise and refocus your attention to the ‘here and now, becoming present in your environment.

This article was first published on Medium, 05-06-2021

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Lisa Bradburn

Sr Scrum Master Transitioning To Agile Coach | Heart-Centric Leader | Gestalt Psychotherapist-In-Training | Writer on Medium | Brand Ambassador Plentyworld.com for Mental Health Awareness | Editor, Being Well and Medika.Life


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