Using the Five Senses to Combat Stress

How to combat stress with a grounding technique using your own secret weapon – your five senses.

If you have been reading the Shadow’s Edge blog for a while, you’ll know how passionate we are about helping young people deal with their mental health challenges. We talk to people about their struggles, get to understand what helps to get through them, and share our coping tips on our social media. Heck, we made a free mental health game for that purpose! We know that our app helps people, and we hear from our players how much it does all the time. But we also understand that there are times when we need new ways to process our current challenge, whether that’s depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc. Also, not everyone benefits from the same strategies and tips that the person next to them does. For this week’s blog, we wanted to share how you can use your five senses to your advantage!

Grounding is a helpful technique that gets your mind off of the stuff that is worrying you by making you focus on each of your five senses.

Your five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – are your own secret weapons against stress. It’s a toolset that can be carried anywhere, doesn’t cost money, and is always there when you need it.

The “5-4-3-2-1” Grounding Technique

This is a really helpful technique to use when you are being hit with unpleasant things like intrusive thoughts, an anxiety attack, or if you just need to calm down after something stressful. And it’s easy to remember, too! Just counting down from five is a nice way to remember the following steps:

5 things you can see

The first step to this grounding method is to look around and list five things you can see. It could be anything in the room or space around you – a pen, a window, grass under your feet, a squirrel nibbling an acorn nearby. Anything you can look at! And really take a moment to take in the sight. If you see a painting, take time to look at the brush strokes and the colors. Let your eyes relax and enjoy those sights.

4 things you can feel

Now, lets pick out four things you can feel. Do you have a soft, fuzzy sweater on? Or maybe you are sitting on a quilt and can feel the way the stitching is raised up from the fabric. Feel the fabric and really pay attention to how the fibers feel under your fingertips. Or if you are outside, feel the bark of a tree or the crunchy texture of a dry leaf. Just find four things you can touch, and savor the textures, paying special attention to the differences and similarities between each of them.

3 things you can hear

Pick out three things that you can hear. Is the air conditioning making a soft humming sound? Are there birds chirping outside? Is your pet dog sleeping nearby and snoring softly? Pay attention to the sounds, really noticing them for a moment. Have you heard them before?

2 things that you can smell

Now we need to pick out two things you can smell. Maybe you are next to a garden of flowers. Smell one and really take time to enjoy the fragrance as it enters your nostrils. Or smell the room you are in – do you smell Febreze, or someone else’s perfume? Just like the previous steps, take time to pay attention to each of these new smells.

1 thing you can taste

And finally, find one thing to taste. A cup of your favorite herbal tea, a breath mint, chewing gum, a cookie… anything that you can taste. Savor the flavor. Is it sweet, spicy, sour? Really pay attention to the sensations that the flavor brings. Does the flavor affect the tip of your tongue more than the back, or vice versa? Maybe even have some fun with it by pretending you are a professional taste tester!

Final thoughts on following the steps:

As you follow along each of the steps of the “5-4-3-2-1” grounding technique, make sure to take your time with each thing you notice in the space around you. Really focus in on each of the sensations. The success of this grounding technique relies on you refocusing your attention on your physical self rather than what’s going on in your internal self (like your thoughts, fears, and anxieties).

We hope this info on the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique is useful for you. If you would like to see more articles like this, please comment below – we would love to hear from you!

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Want to join our community of guest bloggers? Have a story you want to share with others like you? Shoot me an email at lacey@shadowsedge.com so we can get you started!