The 5-4-3-2-1 exercise is a quick and easy tool that helps ground you in the present moment using your five senses. When your mind is bouncing between various anxious thoughts and feelings, you're overwhelmed, or feel a panic attack coming on.
It’s been used in clinical and everyday settings for years and is often one of the easiest to remember accessible tools.
To do it you can listen to the guide or:
Name FIVE things you see around you. It could be a pen, a spot on the ceiling, anything in your surroundings.
Name FOUR things you can touch around you. It could be your hair, a pillow, or the ground under your feet. If you can, actually touch them and note the texture, temperature, and other details you notice.
Name 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 when available.
Name TWO things you can smell. Maybe you are in your office and smell a 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.
Name ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like—gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Sometimes I’ll even
Do this as many times as you need to in one session, and as many as needed throughout the day. You can always access this directly through toolkit>grounding tools>5-4-3-2-1, or bookmark or text this page to yourself.
What I love about this tool is how fast and easy it is. Even if I’m totally overwhelmed and brain fogged I can always remember ‘5-4-3-2-1’. The first time someone told me to try this I rolled my eyes, it sounded too simple for such complex feelings. But one day I randomly remembered it as I felt a panic attack coming on and gave it a shot. I was driving (a horrible thing to do when a panic attack is coming on) and I quickly went through 5-4-3-2-1 two times in a row. From that day on I use it for big and small moments of overwhelm. Sometimes I’ll do it when I feel perfectly fine just to help myself be more present and mindful in an ordinary moment.
If you like this tool, check out the other ones in the sensory grounding series: 4-2-6, three-part breath, and 5-4-3-2-1.
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