Calming techniques to do at any time

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Engaging Your 5 Senses

Sometimes anxious thoughts invade at the most inopportune times such as in a public setting, at work, in a class, out to dinner with a group of people, or during a meeting. It can feel daunting to wait until the event passes to order to find some relief or perhaps the thoughts are spinning out of control escalating into a panic attack.

The purpose of this grounding exercise is to help you focus on the present moment when anxious thoughts are running wild in your mind. This focus reminds our body, mind, and emotions that you are in control, and you are present in this moment.

Quietly to yourself Notice the Following:

Visual-look around your environment and begin to describe in detail to yourself objects that you see. Describe the color, the shape, the size, anything you notice about the objects.

Auditory-focus on sounds you can hear, whether that be a construction truck outside, the voice of someone else talking, perhaps even white noise if you are in a quite space.

Touch-notice objects and textures you can touch with your hands. Notice what it around you, possibly a pen or a water bottle and feel the texture. What does it feel like? Is it cold? Warm? Hard? Soft?

Smell-try to notice what you can smell in the room. Is there a cup of coffee nearby? Is someone wearing too strong of a perfume?

Taste-maybe you can you take a sip of water or tea and notice what it feels like going down the back of your throat. If that is not available, try to make saliva in your mouth and bring attention to that sensation.

Grounding exercises are foundational for taking control of our anxious thoughts in the moment in order to prevent the cycle of anxiety (see Anxiety services section for more detailed information).

These exercises are also another opportunity to be kind to ourselves in the moment instead of going straight into negative self-talk.

Practicing these exercises when we are not experiencing the anxiety in the moment can feel silly or pointless, but when we are amid battling controlling thoughts is when these tools place us in a position of power to take back our sense of calm.

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About Me

I am a licensed therapist in the state of California with a master’s degree in social work from UCLA.