5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique


A quick, easy and effective technique for managing anxiety, trauma triggers and other unwanted emotions is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique


Firstly, breathe. Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and breathe out for 5 seconds.  

Acknowledge FIVE things you can see around you.

This can be as simple as the floor you're standing on, a book, a person near you, a hat. Whatever you first see.

Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch.

This could be your hair, your hands, your clothes, maybe a chair, the floor. 

Acknowledge THREE things you can hear.

Can you hear the sounds of passing traffic? People talking? Bird song? Your breathing? Remember to breathe. In for 5 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and out for 5 seconds... 

Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.

Can you smell different things directly in your environment or do you need to make an effort?Smell your clothes, a pillow, a book, a box of crayons... 

Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

What does your mouth taste like? Coffee, cigarettes, gum, your lunch?

This technique grounds you in the here & now, effectively allowing you to press 'pause' on the unwanted thoughts & feelings. 

One of the scariest things about anxiety or any unwanted thoughts and emotions is that we feel that we are not in control at all and we have no idea when these thoughts will stop. We fear that we have become these thoughts and that we are stuck here forever with no knowledge of if or when they will stop.

Techniques such as this one that ground us back in the here and now allow us to observe our thoughts and remember that we are not them. Once we realise that we are not our thoughts, that we are not stuck forever in these thought patterns, recovery becomes possible.

Another technique that has a similar effect is to use bells or a rattle. The sound of these disrupts the thought pattern for long enough for us to notice that we are not the thought and creates the space required to stay grounded & present. 


Interrupting our unwanted thoughts allows us the space to realise that we are separate from them.

Nadine Cameron Ward