I recently had an upsetting encounter with a friend when I kept trying to set a boundary that was repeatedly ignored, and then it escalated into a shouting match. Afterward, my body was shaking with anger and anxiety; I was in full-out fight-or-flight mode.
Although I was tempted to keep the drama going by replaying the incident and defending myself with thoughts of how I had been right, or what I “should” have said or done, I did something different.
I decided to calm myself down and enjoy the rest of the day. So, I went into a bathroom, closed the door, said a prayer, and did some energy tapping with soothing self-talk. Then I used the following technique to dissolve the adrenaline flooding my system. The whole process took about ten minutes, and afterward, I had a wonderful day.
The 5,4,3,2,1 Technique to Manage Anxiety
- Take a few slow belly-inflating breathes and remind yourself that your body has just felt threatened and is reacting normally.
- Name 5 things you can see around you (Examples: rug, painting)
- Name 4 things you can feel (feet on the floor, cool air on the skin)
- Name 3 things you can hear right now (a fan running, people’s voices outside)
- Name 2 things you can smell right now (perfumed soap)
- Name 1 good thing about yourself (“I am strong,” “I can help myself through this.”)
If you simply can’t focus, or if your body and mind haven’t yet settled down, take a few more belly-inflating breaths, and tell yourself that you can calm down. Then do the exercise again. It may take several minutes of repetition before the adrenaline dissipates.
According to independent.co.uk, “the trick, which relies on sensory awareness, is rooted in mindfulness – and apart from anxiety, it can help treat depression, addiction disorders, lower blood pressure, and relieve stress (Harvard University Helpguide.org).”
Whenever you suffer from incessant thinking, worry, tension, anger, or fear, this practice will return you to a more relaxed state. It sure worked for me!
Gigi Langer is a former “Queen of Worry.” She’s also an educator, speaker, and author of 50 Ways to Worry Less Now: Reject Negative Thinking to Find Peace, Clarity, and Connection, winner of the 2018 Indie Excellence Award. Learn to defeat negative thinking, find inner peace, attain clarity, and improve relationships–no matter what is going on in your life! Available through Amazon (5 stars), Barnes and Noble, and e-book sites.
Langer holds a Ph.D. in Psychological Studies in Education and an MA in Psychology, both from Stanford. As Georgea M. Langer, she’s published several books for teachers and school administrators.