Could this be the easiest technique to soothe self?
Honestly, I never would have thought that a counting technique could soothe the symptoms of overwhelm, panic and anxiety so quickly as this gem.
Most people who experience this phenomenon don’t realise that when experiencing stress, you have activated a subliminal fear-based neurological program called ‘survival’. Generally, this patterning is derived from something in your past.
Survival programs anchor your sensory response with emotions from a moment in time when you first experienced a place, person or situation(s) that made you feel unsafe.
When we experience stress, we activate a state of neurological survival and deactivate our normal sensory response. This means that our brains utilise as little data as possible to ascertain whether we should fight, flee or freeze. There’s no ‘big picture’ being assessed in those moments after being triggered.
Once you’ve activated survival, you can feel ungrounded and untethered. This unsettles us neurologically from the perspective that we’ve disconnected from our internal compass that points north. We can feel uncentered or cut off from our hearts.
It’s at this point that the overthinking and over-analysis begins. The result is we get stuck in our heads. All that mental energy drives the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive and the panic button is internally pushed.
What’s actually going on, is the mental energy from too many thoughts creates a glitch in the neural network. I liken overthinking to chaos. Until there is a relief valve to siphon off this energy, it simply builds. This is why you can feel overwhelmed without an escape.
You’re using all your mental energy to find a solution for something that’s likely to not even be real. Additionally, as soon as we start strategising about ways to control the problem doing laps inside our head, we’ve moved away from the present moment, and have anchored fear of the future. Our head is now in the clouds with worry about the future.
This is what it feels like to be ungrounded and disconnected from your feelings of the heart.
The Laws of Nature dictate that we can only ever make change in one reference of time — right now in the present. You can’t go back into the past and change anything there, and you can only wait for the future.
The following grounding technique of 54321 is a beautiful and gentle way to settle yourself back into your body. When operating from your heart, you can bring yourself back to a state of internal calm.
Essentially this breath is utilising a self-hypnosis technique promoting you use your breath to re-engage your sensory response.
Here’s the grounding technique
The technique begins with recognising you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious and taking yourself somewhere quiet.
Take a deep slow breath in. I instruct my clients to count the number as they go. This is a distraction technique away from the overwhelming and annoying thoughts and brings you back into the present moment.
Release your breath slowly and breathe as if through a straw. A slower outward breath sedates the vagus nerve and gut. This signals to the survival program (perhaps I’m actually safe and calm down).
State to yourself “relax” as you breathe out.
Repeat five times.
Open your eyes and look around where you are. Name four things you can see.
The trick here is literally just to observe the space around you. You’re utilising the sense of vision to really look at your reality in the present moment and verify there’s no sabre-toothed tiger in front of you. You are safe.
It’s worth noting that the visual processing centre is partially shut down whilst a survival program is run. This means you lose quality information from your peripheral visual field and look around your space like a meerkat (ie you’re moving your head to look around you).
Name three things you can hear, either inside or outside the room. There’s no judgement required here, and the act of listening is gathering further evidence of what and where are sounds coming from and whether are they a threat.
When you can recognise sounds in the distance, you’ll undoubtedly take a long slow deep breath of relief — “hey I’m actually ok”.
You can even tell yourself “In this moment I’m ok!”
Name two things you can smell. Please note this may be very subtle, and you may simply smell your clothes.
Pause and take another slow deep breath. Re-assess how you’re feeling. Have you calmed down, even just a little bit?
I do recommend repeating the process for at least a second or third time. You will be stunned by how much more you will observe what the senses are detecting.
Because when you bring yourself into the present moment, you are inserting a circuit breaker into your survival program. This defuses the intensity of mental energy swirling around in your head, and grounds you back into your body quickly.
Repeating the 54321 cycle several times takes less than 2 minutes. Therefore it works faster than any medication and can be used anywhere.
This isn’t a once-off strategy tool and your anxiety will be sorted. However, this is a tool you can utilise anytime and anywhere to soothe yourself. I’ve provided my regular audience access to a video + worksheet via the following link below should you wish to experience regrounding yourself right now.
Karen Humphries is a Change Facilitator. She is a qualified Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, LEAP & NES Practitioner, Intuitive Meditation Facilitator, Clinical Hypnotherapist, and published author. She is a self-confessed laughaholic. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’