We often use simple techniques in therapy. The secret is to practice them every day so that when you notice anxious feelings begin to appear you have a technique, which you know well, to help you. With practice these techniques will become default responses for you.
Think about fire safety at home. You can either wait for a fire to begin or you can install appliances which in case of fire will help e.g. a fire blanket, a smoke alarm etc. Similarly, these techniques mean that in case of anxiety, rather than fire, we are confident in the preparation we have practised.
Don’t be a fire-fighter, be a fire marshall and be prepared.
The techniques seem deceptively simple; which is good because an anxious mind is an overwhelmed mind so the simpler the better.
Practise makes perfect and makes the technique more effective and with time they will become a default response for you.
Anxious minds follow the same pattern every time, you have the same sensations and symptoms. When we challenge anxiety with practised techniques we are causing a pattern interrupt which is necessary if we’re to going to begin to regain control.
During 5,4,3,2,1 we are taking ourselves out of our heads and moving our focus onto the external environment because anxiety likes to hide in your head.
We add detail to the lists in 5,4,3,2,1 because it distracts us for longer and means that we focus even more outside our heads.
Be proactive, not reactive. Be ready for the next anxiety attack.
Say them out loud if it’s appropriate because it’s a further way to engage the brain.
I encourage clients to write post-its and perhaps put them on their computer, their screen-saver etc. So they know what 5,4,3,2,1, means but nobody else does. This does two things a. it minds you to practice and it reminds you that you have a technique when anxiety begins to control you.