Grounding techniques can be used to bring you back to the present moment, and can be really helpful for anxiety, panic attacks and PTSD to calm down your body’s fight/flight response.

My favourite grounding technique is known as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique which uses your senses to bring you back into the present. It’s easy to remember by counting on your fingers. It doesn’t matter which order you do the steps in, so don’t worry if you end up doing the senses in a different order to this. I’ve also given some ideas for adapting the exercise.

Hand showing 5 fingers

Five things you can see

These can be anything – a bird, a carrier bag, a paving stone. Try to really notice what they look like and describe them to yourself.

Hand showing 4 fingers

Four things you can hear:

What can you hear at this moment? Maybe you can hear a bird, a car driving past, music playing nearby. Are they loud or quiet, high or low pitched? Try not to make any judgements about the noises, just notice them.

Hand showing 3 fingers

Three things you can touch:

These could be your clothes, the chair you’re sitting on, your arm, a TV remote – anything near you. Try to really notice the textures.

Hand showing 2 fingers

Two things you can smell:

If there’s nothing you can smell in your immediate surroundings, do you have any food or toiletries nearby that you enjoy and can use for this step? If there’s nothing available, try naming two smells that you like.

Hand showing 1 finger

One thing you can taste:

This can be tricky in the moment as you might have an unpleasant taste in your mouth when you’re feeling panicky. Do you have any mints or sweets nearby that you can suck? If there’s nothing suitable around, try naming one thing you like the taste of. You could also replace this step by thinking of one thing that you like about yourself.

It’s a good idea to practice this grounding technique when you’re feeling OK, so you’re used to doing it when you really need it. You could also adapt it to use the finger counting but not the senses – how about five places starting with the letter S, four of your favourite films, three types of birds and so on?