Sunday 10 May 2020

... the 5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique

I recently came across the '5-4-3-2-1 Coping Technique for Anxiety' (I think an ad popped up somewhere for someone selling charm bracelets that you could use as a reminder of the things on the list). It's basically a sensory awareness grounding exercise that can help to shift your focus to the 'here and now' and away from anxious thoughts. You do it by stopping to acknowledge...

  • FIVE things you see around you.
  • FOUR things you can touch around you. 
  • THREE things you hear. 
  • TWO things you can smell. 
  • ONE thing you can taste.

I haven't yet remembered to use this in the moments when I'm feeling really panicky (usually after the weekly shopping trip or late at night after reading too many newspaper articles), but thought it might be fun to try and cement it into my brain in this catch-up post for April into May...

Five things I've seen:

A sea of bluebells in the woods during a sunny lunch-time walk.
Dandelion clocks in the front garden. I know this is a weed-fest waiting to happen, but they looked absolutely beautiful in that moment.
Like mother, like son - my eldest's cheerfully overgrown front garden when we dropped off some home-baked banana muffins and choc-chip cookies for him last week. I had a little cry in the car on the way home because I really wanted to hug him, but couldn't.
A perfect peaches and cream tulip in a flower-bed along the road.
The serendipitous juxtaposition of a pretty pansy amid the forget-me-nots that have self seeded into a big blue ceramic pot.

Four things I've touched:

Well, hand-made actually! A little felted dragonfly brooch for my sister's birthday.
Masks, masks, and more masks. For friends, family and colleagues. I made three for my sister's best friend, who does shelf-stacking in a supermarket and has been having panic attacks due to lack of PPE provision by his employer and the thoughtless behaviour of customers shoving past him. He's been wearing scarves tied round his face and feeling really self-conscious, so these washable cotton masks are a lot more practical and comfortable for him.  He sent me a text saying that they had made his life "a 100 times better" - which made me cry again.

A painted pebble (picked up from the beach at Seahouses, so extra special) with a portrait of the semi-tame blackbird - "Charlie" - who lives in my Mum and Dad's garden.
A denim feather brooch. Middle-of-the-night-Pinterest-browsing (also recommended for keeping anxious thoughts at bay) led me down the rabbit-hole of recycled denim - bags, rugs, aprons, pot-holders, storage baskets, tassels...and feathers...are among the many things you can make from a pair of worn out jeans. So top right below a photo of some of the feathers I made (including a tiny "budgie" feather from some spotted cotton - it works with any woven fabric)...and a couple of photos of the brooch I subsequently made after thinking, "Okay, so I've made some feathers, now what?" I whiled away several happy hours yesterday, and re-purposed at least 2 square inches of denim in the process. Waste not, want not!
Three things I've heard:

Birdsong - from dawn til dusk. Here are a couple of robins chirping and chatting over a bit of suet-cake in my Mum and Dad's garden...
...and here's Charlie and his mate gathering mealworms a little while later. Blackbirds are so expressive and melodic in their singing.

I've had this CD on non-stop repeat whilst I've been making and sewing in my craft-room. I really love everything I've ever heard by these silver-tongued sisters! 
I don't have a photo for it, but I've also been listening to the free-to-use version of Spotify (just so I don't wear out the First Aid Kit CD collection through over-use). I have a playlist of about 100 favourite songs which I shuffle-play through my phone - the intermittent ads don't bother me too much and it's nice to lose myself in a few "blasts from the past".

Two things I've smelled:

Both in bloom at the moment, and my favourite scents out of any/all perfumes - lilac and lily-of-the-valley. I don't like picking flowers, but I couldn't resist picking a couple of sprigs for this little bud vase on my workdesk. Absolutely heavenly.
One thing I've tasted:

(This could also count as a smell). My daughter's baking. Since we've been in lockdown she's been trying out a few different recipes (favourites being banana muffins and chocolate-chip cookies), so we now have a supply of home-baked treats available throughout the week. She has started keeping the cookie dough in the fridge and making batches of just three cookies at a time so that we can always enjoy them "fresh out of the oven" and yet still have a chance of fitting back into our non-lockdown clothes one day.


  1. Hi Amelia! I had to track you down - I couldn't find you on the WOYWW list! What a thoughtful post, beautifully illustrated with your photos. That sounds like a good technique - I will remember it! I do get anxious sometimes too - mainly about work (I'm too conscientious!) - and I get easily overwhelmed. What works pretty well for me is taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly and completely. When I'm anxious I tend to take just shallow little breaths in quick succession with a knot in my stomach but the deep breathing/exhaling really gets rid of the knot. Your home made masks look amazing - bright and cheerful is what we need. I'm amazed how people are not willing wear masks around here. I've got one that I carry around, but I never wear it as I don't want to be the only person wearing one. Hope you're doing well and managing your anxiety (I know it's not easy!) some days I'm pretty chilled and other days I'm all wound up. Hope you come back to WOYWW soon (says the person who just missed 4 weeks in a row LOL). Keep well and happy! xx

  2. What a beautiful post, Amelia. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique sounds like a different take on mindfulness, concentrating on the here and now and absorbing the sensations around you. I think anything that takes your mind off what it is worrying about, is bound to reduce anxiety levels. I love how you have illustrated this with so many quite beautiful photos. For me, there is nothing more beautiful than a bluebell wood in spring - I have not had the privilege of seeing one this year so it's especially lovely to enjoy one vicariously! I love your little felted dragonfly - just gorgeous, and my other favourite photo is the blue flowers in the blue pot. Ah, Pinterest! I too am an addict! I can waste hours just looking at what comes up in "recommended for you" and every now and then it comes up with something that is really useful. It's such a wonderful source of inspiration, isn't it, and it never ceases to amaze me just how creative people are. I love your little denim selection.

    Thank you for visiting my blog - sorry you weren't on WOYWW this week! Thank you for all your kind words too! I am so glad you like the teddy card I made for my hubby. It is definitely more of a present than a card and he is treating it as such. He loves it, and has spent some time identifying each teddy! I laughed at your description of yourself rescuing the cuddly toys from charity shops! They do look like little lost waifs and strays, don't they, and they are just crying out to be loved!

    It sounds as if you've got your fair share of UFOs to tackle as well. Several people have encouraged me by their comments not to get too hung up about them, and pretty much giving me permission to ditch some of them altogether. That could be quite liberating! I've had some good suggestions about others too - emptying the teabags a few at a time while sitting in the sunshine in the garden (less messy than indoors!), and also the suggestion I could wallpaper the house with them all! I think I have a tendency towards hoarding!

    At least getting them all out to photograph them has inspired me to finish some of them, and I've brought them downstairs to add to the clutter in the sitting room, so I can work on them from the comfort of the recliner. I'm never short of things to do, that's for sure!

    Take care of yourself and keep smiling!

    Happy belated WOYWW 11th anniversary,
    Shoshi x #20