Addressing Anxiety

Anxiety is something most of us have experienced and becomes heightened during times of stress. In our work life anxiety can creep up when we are preparing to speak in public, receive or give a performance review, or take on new job duties. In our personal lives anxiety can seem as if it comes out of nowhere and shows up in the form of a racing heart, inability to perform simple tasks, you can feel it when you are by yourself or when you are surrounded by people. When anxiety has your mind racing, there are things you can do to help ground yourself in the present and slow the busyness of your mind.

Below is a five-step exercise can be very helpful during periods of anxiety or panic.

Before starting slow your breathing, take deep, long breaths to help you create a sense of calm. Once your breathing has normalized, start by taking the following fives steps and remember 5-4-3-2-1.

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet. 

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This could be any external sound. If you can hear your belly rumbling that counts! Focus on things you can hear outside of your body.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell pencil, or maybe you are in your bedroom and smell a pillow. If you need to take a brief walk to find a scent you could smell soap in your bathroom, or nature outside.

1: Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch?

While this exercise can be helpful if you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your anxiety could be a warning sign to something deeper. If you struggle with anxiety on a regular basis and have difficultly refocusing or coping with the feelings, please reach out to your primary care physician or a mental health professional. Click here to reach a listing of mental health resources from Michigan Medicine