This post is part of the Reduce Overwhelm & Anxiety Series.
Everyone experiences anxiety or a sense of overwhelm from time to time. This can be especially true for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), who can become overstimulated more easily due to a more “finely-tuned” nervous system. Additionally, folks with PTSD or complex trauma can feel anxious and overwhelmed, especially when triggered or due to being hyper-alert. This series will include tools and techniques that I often explain and practice with my clients to support them in settling their nervous system, increasing relaxation, and feeling more grounded, calm and present. Each post in the series will have one or a few strategies to practice. If used regularly, it can support you in better managing your emotions and quieting your mind.
Similarly to my last post on breathing, increasing mindfulness to the present moment allows you to connect to yourself and circumstances in the here and now. Focusing on breathing is a good first step. Additionally, a popular exercise, sometimes called 5,4,3,2,1 can be helpful. It creates awareness of your body and physical environment in the present moment. When we get triggered, overstimulated or overwhelmed, we lose focus and our brain might actually be stuck in the past (especially if experiencing a flashback). By connecting with our five senses and our surroundings, we can become more centered and mindful.
Here is the exercise:
Name (outloud or in your head):
- 5 things you see.
- 4 things you feel (tactilely-i.e. cushion beneath you, fuzzy blanket, breeze against skin).
- 3 things you hear.
- 2 things you smell.
- 1 thing you taste.
The number or order of what sense you focus on is not necessarily important. However, it can be difficult to name 5 things you taste. Just remember to use all 5 senses and identify at least of few of each sensory experience. It sounds quite simple, but can be very effective. Give it a try. And remember, sometimes it takes time for it to work. So, practice it often, even when you don’t feel like you need it. That way, it will become more familiar and easier to apply when you do need it.