The 5–4–3–2–1 Grounding Technique
Feeling anxious? Dissociating? Try grounding yourself with this easy and innovative practice. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a mindfulness and grounding exercise used to manage anxiety, stress, and overwhelming emotions. It can help you become more present in the moment and reduce feelings of anxiety or panic.
After a trauma, it’s normal to experience flashbacks, panic, anxiety, dissociation and other uncomfortable symptoms, which can be debilitating. Grounding techniques help control these symptoms by turning attention away from thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing on the present moment.
It's surprisingly common for people to become overwhelmed, have trouble breathing, and lose their grounding. We hear the phrase “ground yourself” quite a lot. But what does this statement mean, and how can you re-ground themself once again? The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique addresses this challenge.
The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique
The purpose of the exercise is to slow down, be still for a moment wherever 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. You can substitute this by thinking of your favourite thing to taste.
Here is a memorable chart if you’re seeking an easy graphic to print, tape, and remind yourself of the practice.
Once you practice each of the five senses, notice whether 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 or are aware that you are starting to dissociate, 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.