We’ve all experienced anxiety at one point. It may have been just before a big exam, during a soccer game, or introducing yourself to someone new. The following quick exercise is a coping strategy that can literally be used anywhere and anytime to help decrease anxiety and shift your mind from worrying about a bunch of things at once to focusing on one thing in the present.
Begin by taking a deep breath in… now let it out and start to focus on your surroundings.
5 - LOOK Describe 5 things you can see (“I see the red clock on the wall”)
4 - FEEL Describe 4 things you can feel on your body or around you (“I feel the wind blowing on my face, I feel the rough velcro from my bag”)
3 - LISTEN Describe 3 things you can hear (“I hear people whispering”)
2 - SMELL Describe 2 things you can smell (“I smell the lavender air freshener”).
1 - TASTE Describe 1 thing you can taste (“I taste the mint from my gum”).
You can complete the “Give Me 5” exercise by saying what you sense out loud, writing them down, or just describing them in your head. The point of this strategy is to help practice mindfulness by grounding your senses to the things that are around you, instead of the things you are worrying about. Mindfulness is an exercise that helps you focus your full attention on what you are doing at any given moment, it places you in control of your thoughts.
As with any exercise, practicing mindfulness takes time to get good at, especially with all the time we spend watching TV or on our phones. Mindfulness is associated with many benefits including better memory, decreased stress, decreased emotional reactivity, and decreased anxiety.
I recommend trying to identify things you have not noticed before and taking your time to scan your environment. Sometimes, closing your eyes can help shift your focus to the here-and-now and makes it easier to point out sounds or smells. If you find your mind wandering away from your senses, just refocus onto another object around you. Parents can also do this exercise with their children to help practice mindfulness as a family.
If your child struggles with anxiety, seems to worry a lot, or could benefit from other learning healthy coping strategies to deal with every day stress, give Dr. Patty a call to schedule a free 15 minute consultation to talk about how we can begin to teach mindfulness and calming strategies to your child.
Davis, D,M., & Hayes, J.A. (2012). What are the benefits of mindfulness. Monitor on Psychology 43(7), retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.