How to use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique for peak stress

“Take a couple of deep breaths” is sound and well-meaning advice, but for those of us with anxiety or who find ourselves in incredibly, high-stress situations, a couple of deep breaths isn’t always enough. Enter the 5-4-3-2-1 technique.

One of the best things that we can do for ourselves when we are feeling stressed out or anxious, is to bring ourselves back into the present moment. Sounds simple enough, but it can be really challenging to achieve, when we are in such an activated state.

The 5-4-3-2-1 technique gently, yet swiftly, guides us back to our body and current surroundings. This is important because when a person is in fight-or-flight mode, we often lose touch of our body and surroundings. By engaging with our senses, we are able to re-inhabit our bodies, naturally calming ourselves down.

The technique is a simple countdown. Watch the short video above for a demonstration or follow the steps below.

How to use the 5-4-3-2-1 technique to calm down when you are stressed:

Complete the following steps out loud or in your head.

  1. Name 5 things you can see right now.
  2. Name 4 things you feel, physically, right now. Example: your feet on the floor.
  3. Name 3 things you hear, right now.
  4. Name 2 things you smell, right now.
  5. Name 1 thing you taste, right now.

By the time you get to one, you may have noticed that you have slowed down some and are feeling slightly more relaxed. Once you are in this state, give yourself a moment to stay in it, before jumping off to the next activity. You may want to take another moment here to practice some belly breaths or take yourself through a body scan.

No matter how much you meditate or practice self care, you are still going to run into moments that stress you out, make you feel anxious, and take you out of the present. When that happens, don’t try to power through, this will only compound your stress. Use this tool to come back to your body and tune into what you need, in that moment.

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