Temporarily Free Your Mind Of Anxiety With The 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise

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Start by doing the 5-4-3-2-1 every five minutes. Then every fifteen minutes. Then every hour. It is nothing more than a focusing exercise, something to intensely occupy your mind so disturbing thoughts can't take hold. ·

What You'll Need

  • This method

What You'll Do

  • Sit or recline comfortably. Focus on some object in front of you. Keep your focus on that throughout the exercise. (If your eyes drift off, just bring them back.) Do it out loud first. Then, try it silently. See if one works better for you than the other.
  • Say “I see” and name something in your peripheral vision. Say “I see” and name something else in your peripheral vision. Continue until you have made five statements. For example: I see the lamp, I see the table, I see a spot on the lamp shade, I see a book on the table, I see a picture on the table.
  • Now Say “I hear” and name something you hear. Now Say “I hear” and name something else you hear. Continue until you have made five statements. NOTE: you will have to repeat something if there are not five different things you can hear.
  • Now say “I feel” and name something you feel. (not internal, like heart pounding or tension, but external). · Say “I feel” and name something else you feel. · Continue until you have made five statements. For example: I feel the chair under me, I feel my arm against my leg, etc.
  • That completes one cycle. It takes intense concentration. That is exactly what you want. As you concentrate on non-threatening things, the “fight or flight” hormones that were in your body when you started the exercise get burned off. As they get used up, you get more relaxed. See, you don't have to MAKE yourself relax; as the old ones get used up, you just get more relaxed.
  • What about the next cycle? If you always made five statements, you soon could do the exercise WITHOUT intense concentration, and your mind could drift back to “bad” thoughts. We keep concentration intense by making one change each cycle. Instead of doing five statements again, do four statements. Then, in the next cycle, do three statements. Then, in the next cycle, do two statements. Then, in the next cycle, do one statement. Then, in the next cycle, go back to five, etc.
  • Stop when you are as relaxed as you want to be. If you want to be more relaxed – or to fall asleep – continue. If you lose count, that is a good sign because it means you are getting so relaxed that you are losing count.
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