5 Things - A tool for Anxiety
Updated: Nov 1, 2020
So what does anxiety feel like? Do I have it? It is of course different for everyone, you may just have one or two symptoms arise subtly which you hardly notice or you may have had a full-blown panic attack and have many extreme symptoms all appear at once. Symptoms commonly include:
Tightness in the chest
Fast shallow breathing
An urge to escape
A racing mind
If you have experienced anxiety before you may have already built up a tool kit and found certain things which help you. If you haven’t, there are many things you can try. Slowing your breathing is one of the best ways to calm the nervous system but there are other tools you can use.
One of the best I’ve found is a tool called “5 Things” As anxiety usually comes from worry about the future, this brings us back into the present moment quickly.
Try to find a quiet space to sit if possible, if you can’t this will still work.
Name 5 things you can Touch
Reach out for the first thing you can physically touch near you. It may be your phone, for example, really tune in to purely what it feels like in your hands. Does it feel solid and heavy? Is it warm or cold? Is it smooth or bumpy? Sit and hold it until you have really felt it.
Then reach out for the next thing you can touch, whatever that is. Maybe it’s a cushion next to you. What does it feel like? Is it soft and does it give when you squeeze it? Does it feel less solid than the phone? Is the material rough or smooth? Warm or cold?
Then the next, maybe you touch a wall. How does it feel? Does it feel very solid and real? Cold to touch? Bumpy? Keep going until you have touched 5 things and really tuned into how they feel under your fingers.
Name 5 things you can See
Name the first thing you focus on and say its name out loud. Maybe this is ‘chair’, notice the texture of the chair, the colour, what’s it made of? How big is it? Next might be ‘plant’, what colour is the plant? are its leaves shiny? does it have flowers? Is it moving in a breeze or still?
Name 5 things you can Hear
Focus on the first sound you notice. This may be a relaxing sound or this might be a not so relaxing sound but just notice it. For example, I can hear the hum of traffic in the distance, it sounds a bit like the sea and is quite calming and constant. The next sound I can hear is a drill outside, it might not be as calming but I’m just focussing on how it sounds, it’s quite rhythmic. Don’t think oh the drill is annoying, or I know who’s drilling, just notice it and accept it’s there in this moment.
Next, I can hear neighbours walk along my corridor, I can hear they are carrying something., the sound has stopped. Next, I can hear someone laughing outside. If I really concentrate I can hear the hum of my computer. Just notice the sounds are there, some constant, some temporary and that’s ok.
Hopefully you should feel a little better after this exercise. If anything, it has stopped you thinking about the future for 5 minutes! You can also do this exercise when out and about, it can help to bring you out of your head and back into the present moment.