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Battling Stress and Anxiety: The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique That Really Works

It is amazing what the human mind is capable of. However, it tends to focus on worst-case scenarios, irrational fears, and "what ifs."

When emotions and thoughts become overwhelming, this very simple grounding technique can be very helpful. All of us have experienced this at some point in our lives. It is easy for us to become consumed with worry, stress, and anxiety when our thoughts run away from us. As anxiety pulls us from the present, our thoughts tend to focus on the past or the future.

It can be very helpful to know some simple tools and techniques, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, when you detect unwanted thoughts and feelings. Anxiety disconnects us from the present moment when it overwhelms us with anxious thoughts. Therefore, reconnecting with the present can bring calm and control.

The best way to reconnect to the present is through the body. Our body is only ever in one place at one time, the here-and-now. Your mind can jump forward or backwards in time, often accessing many anxious thoughts, your body is never anywhere else but in the present. So to calm anxious thoughts and reconnect with the present, we can utilise our five senses. This is where the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique can be so helpful. It is a very simple, yet powerful technique.

So take a moment to become aware of your breath. Just a few deep breaths can bring you back into the moment. Become aware of your environment around you and focus your attention and awareness on:

5 Things You Can See

Notice what you can see around you. The colour of a nearby car, the intricacy of the pen in your hard, the way the light shines off a nearby glass. Take your time to really look and acknowledge what you see.

4 Things You Can Touch

Notice the physically feeling of where you are stood, or sat. The feeling of the clothes on your skin. The weight of the mug in your hand. If you like, spend a moment literally touching these things. Maybe notice the sensation of gravity itself, or the floor beneath you.

3 Things You Can Hear

Just listen! What can you hear? The distant sound of traffic. Voices in the next room. Birds chirping nearby. Also notice the gap between between sounds.

2 Things You Can Smell

We don’t pay attention to our sense of smell as much as we could. So just take a moment to notice what toy can smell. If at first you don’t feel like you can smell anything, simply try to sense the subtle fragrance of the air around you, the detergent you use to wash your clothes, or even your own skin.

1 Thing You Can Taste

Just one thing! Perhaps a recent coffee, or the minty aftertaste having recently brushed your teeth or just the taste of the fresh air on your breath.

Repeat this process as many times as needed and really pay attention to how you feel afterward.

All your problems and worries won’t just disappear, but a grounded mind provides a more calm, clear, conscious state to help you move forward with more focus and purpose, keeping these problems in perspective.

Even when we are facing an actual (rather than just imagined) crisis, accessing a greater sense of calm and composure is the best option. This technique is about mindfulness and being present in the moment. Things are rarely as bad as your thoughts might tell you they could be. In some ways the 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a trick to distract a hyperactive mind. However, when practiced frequently, many people more long-term benefits. You may gradually observe that when you fully connect with the moment and your environment, you feel safer and calmer, and less liable to be taken along with runaway thoughts and less likely to focus on worst-case scenarios

It is always worth remembering that anxious thoughts ‘feel’ threatening but they are simply electrochemical flurries in the brain. Scientific evidence demonstrates that the brain works better when it’s relaxed. The emotional brain (limbic system) processes information as and when it comes in. When we’re stressed, this information is passed to the unconscious mind (sometimes referred to as the ‘chimp mind’) and we respond reactively and unconsciously. When we are more calm and grounded, our amygdala and hippocampus feed sensory information through the “higher” executive brain. This means we can think and behave with a more logically and rationality.

Get in touch

If you need any additional help or support with anxiety, then hypnotherapy can help. Get in touch to find out about the benefits of hypnotherapy. A few online sessions can make a big difference and help you achieve your goals.

Malcolm Struthers Hypnotherapy - Online and in-person in Dumfries & Galloway

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