Anxiety can be created by thinking about past events where you felt anxious. Or by worrying about the future, “what if-ing” about an event where you fear you may feel anxious. Staying in the present is a great way to get relief from anxiety.
Do you ever find that at times your mind begins to race, thinking about all the things that you have to do? Or maybe, you find yourself thinking about a stressful event that happened in the past? Then you notice that you are feeling anxiety in your body?
In my previous post, I said I would share a self-hypnotic technique for relief from anxiety.
The “5,4,3,2,1” Technique is a self-hypnotic exercise that you can do to bring yourself back to the present moment. This is a very simple, yet powerful technique created by Betty Erickson. She was the wife of Dr. Milton Erickson, a psychiatrist known for his remarkable work using hypnosis.
It is a great exercise to do when you are feeling anxious, worried or fearful. It is best to do when you first begin to notice the feelings in your body starting to rise. For best results, read through the directions first before actually doing the technique.
The first time you do this exercise, find a place where can be alone and will be uninterrupted. It doesn't have to be a quiet place, as you will actually use what are hearing in the exercise. Do the exercise out loud, all the way to the end. Anytime you do it after the initial time, you can do it silently in your mind and it still works.
While doing the exercise sit up straight, with both feet on the ground and keep your head straight and still, although you can move your eyes. You can also do this while lying down. Just remember to keep your head still.
It is called the 5,4,3,2,1 technique and you will see why after reading the directions.
Say five things out loud that you see. For example:
I see the lamp.
I see the window shade.
I see the mirror.
I see the coffee mug.
I see the flower vase.
Say five things that you hear. For example:
I hear the radio.
I hear a car driving down the street.
I hear the sounds of an airplane.
I hear the dishwasher.
I hear birds chirping.
Say five things that you feel. For example:
I feel my back against the chair.
I feel my shoes.
I feel my sweater.
I feel my fingers touching my pants.
I feel my watch on my wrist.
Then say four things that you see, hear and feel. For example:
I see the window.
I see the bowl of fruit.
I see the computer.
I see the chairs.
I hear the clock ticking.
I hear children’s voices.
I hear the television.
I hear people talking.
I feel the blanket.
I feel my hands clasped.
I feel the breeze.
I feel my elbow touching the chair.
Continue the exercise by saying three things of each that you see, hear and feel, then two things of each that you see, hear and feel and then one thing of each that you see, hear and feel.
Do the exercise in the spirit of curiosity, not trying to make anything happen.
Take your time while doing this exercise. You really do not want to rush through it. As you are saying the things that you see, hear or feel, take the time to really see it or hear it or feel it.
Taking a moment to pause between each thing you are noticing might be helpful.
Remember to say the words I see, I hear or I feel before stating each thing that you see, hear or feel.
If you are unable to come up with different things for each level, it is ok to repeat. Sometimes especially with the hearing level, there may not be much noise going on. Also, it is ok to repeat the same thing from level to level.
Going all the way through from saying five things down to one is one cycle. You may have to repeat the cycle.
You may find that your mind wanders while doing the exercise and you forgot where you are. You can either continue where you thought you left off or if you are feeling better, you can stop.
This is a self-hypnotic exercise, so do not do it if you are driving or doing anything else where your full attention is needed.
One of my clients told me that when she was at work and things began to get stressful, she would go in her office, shut the door and do this exercise for anxiety relief. Then she felt like she was able to resume her day with a clear mind and new perspective.
If you have any questions about the technique, feel free to call me or send me an email.