By Emalee Gillis, NAMI Spokane Blog Editor.
Everyone experiences anxiety at times, whether it be for an upcoming performance like a
presentation or as a reaction to disturbing news. Anxiety can be subtle, like a buzz in the
background or it can hijack the mind and blow up into a full panic attack. When anxiety hits so
hard that it becomes difficult or impossible to function in the present moment, a grounding
technique can help calm the mind and restore functioning.
A frequently cited calming approach uses the five senses. It is called the 5-4-3-2-1
technique and was originally developed by psychologist Marsha Linehan. To follow the
approach, observe your environment and say in your mind:
5 things you can see. These can be things in the room or things you can see through the
After sight, move on to things you can touch and actually touch four different things that
you can reach in your environment and notice how they feel. Say in your mind:
4 things you can touch.
Then listen closely to sounds in your environment. Say in your mind:
3 things you can hear.
Then move on to smell. Say in your mind:
2 things you smell.
If possible, pop in a mint or take a sip of coffee then become aware of
1 thing you taste.
This technique works because it moves your thoughts from your right-side more
emotional brain and into the left-side more rational part of your brain. It also serves as a
distraction from what is on your mind. This technique can be repeated as needed. You can use
the technique on yourself or walk a friend or family member through it who is feeling
In order to get the technique down, you may want to try it a few times when you are
relatively calm so it will come to mind the next time anxiety hits.