Stress can be an unwelcome interruption to anyone’s day. Who wouldn’t love to escape to a top spa when things get tense at work and home? Better yet, ditch everything, and make a whole day of it at the spa.
As relaxing as a spa escape may sound, it’s just not always an option in our busy lives. Sometimes, you may need a quick way to feel more relaxed fast – without ever leaving your home or office.
The 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique is a quick way to help bring feelings of calm in less than 60 seconds through a series of steps designed to engage the senses. Grounding techniques are physical exercises that may be used in the context of traditional therapy and online therapy to help connect us to our body and senses, which can draw our mind’s attention away from the physical effects of stress or anxiety we may be experiencing.
Amazingly, the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise is simple and takes just minutes to learn. So, let’s take a look at how you can put this technique to work for you.
How Grounding Techniques Work
Grounding techniques can help us assert control over some of the physical signs of stress, and the effect can be to feel more calm and present after practicing grounding exercises.
But how does it work? The movie theater metaphor is often used to describe how grounding techniques can affect the body. Here’s how it works, if you’re experiencing stress or a flashback it can be like you’re in a dark theater watching a movie. The grounding exercise is designed to help you walk out of the dark movie theater and into the light, which stops the movie (or stressful scene) from playing.
Once we stop playing the movie version of stress in our minds, we can begin to deal with the fight or flight stress response happening in our body.
Our Body’s “Fight or Flight” Response
When our brain senses danger, our body can experience a fight or flight response triggered by a sudden release of adrenaline and other hormones. The physical results of adrenaline flooding your system can be an increase in heart rate, dilated pupils, body trembles and shaking, and raised blood pressure.
While the shot of adrenaline can help you survive a lion attack or other dangerous situation, our brains can sometimes sense a threat even when there’s no imminent danger. Once we recognize and appreciate that our body is trying to help us survive, we’re better equipped to make peace with the process. We can then learn how to unwind from some of the totally natural physical effects of a stressful situation using grounding techniques.
Try The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique For Yourself
The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a quick practice you can complete in less than 60 seconds that can bring relief to some of the physical symptoms of stress. In this exercise, you’ll work through your five senses to identify things you can see, touch, taste, hear and smell in your environment.
There’s no equipment needed, and you can complete the exercise from anywhere. You can be in your office, at home, or on a plane. The only thing needed for the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique is your attention. From a comfortable seated position, take some time to look around and find:
- Five things you can see
- Four things you can feel
- Three things you can hear
- Two things you can smell
- One thing you can taste
There’s no right answers. There are any number of ways you can answer depending on where you are right now. The five things you see could be your desk, the chair you’re sitting on, a family photo, a stapler, and a pencil. You could hear birds chirping or your refrigerator humming or the wind blowing. You could taste your morning coffee or feel the warm heat of your mug or a cushy pillow behind your back.
The key to the exercise is engaging your senses throughout the five steps. When your senses are more fully engaged and you bring focus to the present, you may be able to lessen some of the uncomfortable physical symptoms of the body’s natural stress response.
There are other grounding techniques to try, as well as different methods of grounding yourself and calming the body’s stress response. Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga can all work to help you find more calm and bring you into the present. But not all methods will work for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s all part of the journey. Experiment with what works for you.
Feelings of nervousness can strike anyone. But sometimes those feelings can be overwhelming, and may even be due to a more serious anxiety disorder. Grounding exercises can help with the symptoms of stress, but they aren’t a substitute for seeking treatment for chronic anxiety. The good news is there are more options today than ever before with the advent of online therapy, which can offer unique flexibility and the convenience of attending sessions from home.
No matter what step you choose to take, we can each become stronger each time we take action to improve our mental wellbeing.