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6 Steps to manage social anxiety using the 54321 method

todayJune 19, 2024 19

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If you’ve ever felt anxious in a social scenario, you’ll know that feeling overwhelmed can often take you out of the present moment, and into your head. This is the moment you start to overthink, which causes a ripple effect that has the power to negatively impact your experience.

That’s why finding a way to get out of your head may be the easiest detour you can take away from anxiety when you’re on the spot. For this, we recommend the ‘54321 method.’

This method is a grounding exercise that forces your senses to kick in and bring you back to reality.

It involves identifying objects around you that you can see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. By going down the list, you draw the mind back to the present and away from the distracting thoughts that make your head spin – a simple but effective way to calm yourself down, quickly.

Let’s break down exactly how to do the 54321 method:

Step 1: look
The first step in this method involves sight. Identify any 5 things around you that you can see. Focus your attention on these objects, and take note of their details. Ie: “That’s a red hardcover book,” “That’s a checkered patterned tablecloth,” etc. Notice the details, and make a mental note as you move down the list of 5 things.

Step 2: feel
The next step is to identify 4 things that you can feel. This could be an article of clothing against your skin, the leaves of a nearby bush, the stem of a wine glass, etc. Pay attention to the sensations you feel when you’re touching these objects. Ie: “This blanket’s texture is waffled,” “This glass is cold, and a little wet,” or “This leaf is smooth and waxy.”

Step 3: hear
Now it’s time to zone in on your listening skills. Listen to your surroundings, and pick out three distinct sounds that you can hear, and identify. This could be a bird chirping in the distance, traffic outside, or the hum of a computer. As you identify these sounds, make a note of what they are and where they’re coming from.

Step 4: smell
Switching to focusing on what you can smell, close your eyes for a moment and try to identify two scents in your environment. This could be the smell of a freshly brewed cup of coffee, freshly mowed grass, or the smell of petrol as you’re filling up at the garage.

Step 5: taste
Lastly, focus your attention on one thing you can taste. For this step, keeping a sour sweet, or bubblegum in your handbag or pocket helps. If you don’t have anything on hand, focus on the residual taste in your mouth, or imagine your favourite taste. This works best with stimulus though, especially sour things that demand a reaction from your body.

Once you’ve cycled through the list, your mind should have drifted away from the anxious thoughts that were overwhelming you. This method isn’t a quick fix for anxiety, but rather a way to calm and ground yourself in social scenarios, fast.

If you have underlying anxiety, it’s always best to chat with a mental health professional for help.

Much Love,

Shai_Quan xx

Written by: Chareen Kauazunda

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