2020 brought with it a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, heightened stress and often feelings associated with a lack of control. Now that we are in the third national lockdown, it is likely that these sentiments will continue. Hopefully this will be tempered by encouraging news about the vaccination rollout, with a real likelihood that things could be looking better by springtime.
Feelings of Anxiety
So, hopefully the future is looking a lot brighter. That said, many will have experienced feelings of anxiety, and this may not dissipate easily just because things start to return to some sort of normality as 2021 progresses. So, having exercises that you can draw on can be helpful as part of a coping arsenal.
This Anxiety Coping exercise is a 5,4,3,2,1 approach, connected to the five senses. The exercise works on different levels: it reminds you to be in the present moment. It is a calming technique beginning and ending with deep thoughtful breathing, and it acts as a circuit breaker for the brain, particularly against the negative chatter that takes place in our heads.
The exercise can be done any time you start to feel your anxiety rising, indoors or out.
Anxiety Coping Exercise Steps:
Stop what you are doing, and take a big deep breath in. You may find it helpful to place your hands over your stomach, so you can feel the rise and fall of your breath.
Take a look around you, and name (out loud if you like), 5 things that you can see.
Now, imagine 4 things that you can feel.
Then, look for 3 things that you can hear.
Still in the space you are in, think about 2 things you can smell.
Lastly, look for 1 thing that you can taste.
So, imagine you are out for a walk in a local park, but your mind won’t stop whirring. You stop and take a long hard look around you, you see a tree, a bird, the bright green grass, a park bench and some people walking their dog. You imagine what it would like to touch the bark of the tree, or how it would feel to lie down in the grass and play ‘snow’ angels. The dog owners allow you to smooth their dog, and you feel its lovely silky coat. You run your fingers along the tree branch. As you take in the moment, you hear the breath of the dog as it chases along, a bird is chirping in the background and the leaves rustle beneath your feet as you keep walking. When you take in your surroundings you can smell a log burner running somewhere nearby, and the musty aroma of the woods as the trees change season, it turns a little chilly and you can almost taste the cold afternoon air…
At the end of the exercise, take another big deep breath.
Grounding exercises like this do take some practise, if at first you find intrusive thoughts creep back in before you have completed a step – don’t worry. Do not berate yourself for this. Just try again!