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Reduce Anxiety With the 54321 Method

54321 method
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / sweetlouise

The 54321 method is a coping technique for anxiety that can help you calm down. Learn how to do this grounding technique next time you’re feeling anxious.

Most of us have experienced anxiety at some point in our lives, and can agree that it’s no fun. Anxiety is a very unpleasing and even scary feeling that many people experience from time to time. Sometimes it’s caused by a specific upcoming life event such as a doctor’s appointment you’re worried about, a presentation you need to give at work, or even when you’re preparing for a trip – also known as travel anxiety. Other times, however, we can experience longer periods of anxiety that are not necessarily determined by one specific event, but rather more than one thing happening in your current life situation. This could be the case if you suddenly change career paths, if you move to a different city or country, or even if you’re worried about the unknown future.

Whether you have moments of anxiety or you’re going through an anxious period in your life, it’s important that you acknowledge that is happening, and you take care of yourself. If you’ve experienced anxiety in the past, it’s not always possible to make it stop right away and force yourself to calm down. Luckily, there are some exercises you can do to help you calm down when you’re feeling very anxious, such as the 54321 method, conscious breathing, and other mindfulness exercises. In this article, we’ll show you how to do the 54321 method to help ground you the next time your mind is bouncing with anxious thoughts.

Practicing the 54321 Method

Before you start with the 54321 method, start taking deep, conscious breaths.
Before you start with the 54321 method, start taking deep, conscious breaths. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Binja69)

The 54321 method is a five-step exercise that can help you cope with anxiety by grounding you in the present moment. It forces you to focus on taking deep breaths, and makes you aware of your surroundings ­– which brings you to the present when your mind is all over the place. Next time you’re feeling anxious, start by focusing on your breath and try to slow it down progressively. Take long, slow, and very deep breaths and try to bring all your attention to it; how the air comes through your nose and goes all the way until your lungs, and then how it comes out. Focus on that sequence several times as a warm-up for the main exercise. Once you are a little calmer, start the 54321 method as follows:

5: Acknowledge and name FIVE things that you can see around you. Look around and pick five things you see in your surroundings. It could be anything from a painting on the wall, a bird you see through the window, or a book on the shelf. Break it down to one thing at a time and focus on how that thing or object looks like, and what you like and dislike about it. What is the painting about? What’s the color of the bird you see through the window? Which book is it that caught your attention in the first place and why?

4: Acknowledge and name FOUR things that you can touch. Notice how your socks feel in your feet or how the wind blows your hair away. You can also focus on things such as: is the couch you’re sitting on comfortable? Do your jeans feel too tight? What’s the texture like of the sweater you’re wearing – fuzzy, soft, perhaps it feels itchy? Bring all your attention to the smallest details, and your mind will start slowing down and focusing on your surroundings.

3: Acknowledge and name THREE things you can hear. Focus on things you can hear outside your body, such as a bird, or the traffic in the background.

2: Acknowledge and name TWO things you can smell. Try to find a particular scent from any of the objects nearby, such as an air diffuser, flowers, soap, or even your own perfume. If you are outdoors, can you smell the grass from the park where you’re in? Can you notice the smell of fresh baked bread from the bakery you just walked by? Bring your attention to the smallest details.

1: Acknowledge and name ONE thing that you can taste. Does your mouth taste like gum, toothpaste, coffee, or the salad from lunch?

Other Tips to Manage Anxiety

Write down how you are feeling and what is making you anxious.
Write down how you are feeling and what is making you anxious. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / StockSnap)

The 54321 method is just one amongst many coping exercises you can do to manage anxiety. If you feel anxious from time to time due to a specific life event coming up, you may notice some symptoms that will not last long and will most likely disappear once the anticipated event is over. Here’s a few things you can do to manage your short-term anxiety:

  • Write: writing down your thoughts is probably one of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce anxiety if you know where it’s coming from. Writing down how you feel and what is making you anxious is one of many effective ways to get out of your head if your anxiety happens sporadically.
  • Practice deep breathing: inhale slowly and as much as you can, hold your breath for a second or two, and exhale slowly. Repeat it several times and bring your focus to how the air comes in and out of your body every time.
  • Go for a walk: the benefits of walking are countless; from boosting your mood and your immune system to improving your emotional and mental well-being. Go for a walk outdoors, take some fresh air, and bring your focus to your surroundings again.
  • Do 20-30 minutes of yoga: yoga is often recommended to improve physical, emotional, and mental well-being. When you’re feeling anxious, take some time to practice hatha yoga, a technique that focuses on body poses and breathing exercises.

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