By David Saadat, MD

Chronic Stress

When dealing with chronic stress, whether brought on by the death of a loved one, losing a job, having a baby, or any other trying situation, it is important to employ a variety of tactics to manage chronic stress. One technique that can have a relaxing effect on the body and mind is a technique called “Grounding”.

Grounding involves employing one or more of your five senses to hone in on the environment around you in order to shift the focus from your stress to the environment around you. Through this applied focus, or bodies and minds can find peace in the midst of a stressful situation. One method of grounding, sometimes called the “5-4-3-2-1 Method” involves engaging one or more of your senses while working backwards from five. One example would be to employ a different sense for each number you count down from 5. Beginning with 5, list 5 things that you can see around you. It helps if you can say these things out loud to reinforce them, but if you find yourself in a situation where doing this out loud would not be appropriate, try doing this routine in your head. The next step would be to continue counting backward, but employing a different sense as you do so. List 4 things that you can hear, name these 4 things. Next, list 3 things that you can smell. Employ your sense of touch next, listing two things that you can feel with your hands. Lastly, name one thing that you can taste.

It can be helpful to mix up the order of the senses, since working backward in the same order each time can cause you to become automatic about the routine. The goal of this exercise is to engage your mind with something that isn’t explicitly tied to your stress. Grounding takes practice, but the more you repeat this method, you will find that it becomes easier. Give grounding a try, and use the “5-4-3-2-1 Method” next time you find yourself panicking, worried, or stressed, and see what effects it has on your mood.

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