1.Take three slow breaths and focus your attention
2. Note FIVE things you can see around you - they can be literally anything within your field of vision.
3. Note FOUR things you can touch around you – the chair you are sitting on, the ground beneath your feet, anything.
4. Note THREE things you can hear - any external sound, even if it is coming from inside your body.
5. Note TWO things you can smell, no matter how faint, or commonplace.
6. Note ONE thing you can taste - what is going on in your mouth? Can you taste your breakfast still, or your cup of coffee?
7. Notice how your body responded to each step of the exercise.
8. Notice how you felt before starting this exercise, and how you feel now.
9. Be present to any changes.
10. Return to your day
Adapted from: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/behavioral-health-partners/bhp-blog/april-2018/5-4-3-2-1-coping-technique-for-anxiety.aspx
I am always glad for the opportunity to reacquaint myself with this grounding exercise. I find it to be a useful portal to presence – it invites attention to sensory experience, beginning with the most privileged (sight), and focusing more and more on internal roads perhaps less travelled. The exercise involves a gradual turn inward from our habitual looking out position, and for me this is very welcome. I can imagine that some people will feel resistance to the instructions – the mind can rail against this kind of attending, needing some kind of rationale for what might otherwise seem like pointless and meaningless acts. The countdown acts to narrow the focus, and I like that it ends on taste, because this brings the attention down, from the head into the chest and torso, where feelings arise.
One thing that I realized can happen as a result of performing this activity is the discovery of just how far away you were from where you end up – in my experience, how far away I had been from the experience of feeling in the centre of my body when I sat down to perform the exercise. I may have been all up in my head, as is so often the case in this busy life, and I imagine that for people who take refuge in their head (or elsewhere for that matter) because being in their body has been at some point unsafe, this might be a genuine surprise.
The exercise is something I invite you to do at regular intervals throughout your day as a way of building that muscle of attention, or something you could do whenever you feel the activation of your anxiety pathway (whether that be anxious thoughts, tension in the body, finding it hard to think clearly, etc), or simply something I might use with you in session if I feel you have become overwhelmed during therapy and need help in returning to the room.
Thoughts on Therapy and Mental Health