Racing thoughts or a stressful mind can make it hard to focus. The 5 4 3 2 1 technique is a helpful tool to try if you need help quieting your mind for sleeping, grounding during a panic attack, or refocusing on the task at hand. This technique turns attention away from stressful symptoms, thoughts, memories, or worries and refocuses you to the present moment by being mindful of your five senses.
Focusing on your senses can take you out of your fight/flight/freeze response, which allows you to be more in control of your thoughts. This graphic can be helpful for learning the technique, and a more detailed write up with a walk through is included below:
5 - SEE: Scan your environment for 5 things that you can see.
In my office I can see a white coffee table, a purple tulip, a cozy grey carpet, my ceramic coffee cup, and a blue lamp.
4 - TOUCH: Notice your body, and think of 4 things that you can feel.
I feel the office chair supporting my back,I feel the warm laptop in my hands, I feel the the heaviness of my boots, and the ground under my feet.
3 - HEAR: Can you hear 3 sounds?
I hear the sound of traffic outside, a distant mumbling in the offices around me, and the ticking of a clock.
2 - SMELL: What can you smell from where you are now? If you do not smell anything, what are your two favorite smells?
I can smell my coffee and the flowers on my desk.
1 - TASTE: Is there anything on your mouth that you can taste? If not, what is a favorite flavor you can think of?
I can taste my warm coffee.
This technique is something that become more effective with practice, and the more you do it the more likely you will be able to remember how to do it when you need it. If you go through all five senses and are unable to find relief try to go through them again. It is suggested to go through the senses up to three times when you start this technique.
An alternative to the 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 technique that still uses the senses is modifying it to be 3 - 3 - 3 - etc... With this alteration, you simply move through your senses with 3 examples of each, in practice it would look like:
See: a white coffee table, gold framed picture of the ocean, and a gray carpet
Touch: warm laptop, textured of my knitted sweater, and my chair supporting my back.
Hear: traffic outside, mumbling from other offices, and the ticking of a clock.
Continue through senses until you find a sense of calm...
If you have been having difficulties effectively implementing coping techniques I encourage you to book a session or contact me for free consultation so we can talk about how counselling may be able to help you.