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Do The 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise When You Feel Too Overwhelmed

Do The 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise When You Feel Too Overwhelmed

There is too much to do with too little time - most of us get that feeling occasionally. The long to-do list filled with overdue tasks and the email inbox with several hundreds of unread emails, reminding you every day how little time you have, making you overwhelmed and anxious.

"When we're overwhelmed, we can't function. It may seem silly: why do we let our brains be hijacked by a to-do list? You brain doesn't just see a to-do list; it sees a threat. It sees the threat of scarcity: not enough time, not enough energy, not enough magical ability to fit everything into twenty-four hours. Or it sees the threat of failing, the threat of disappointing others, the threat of feeling incapable", writes psychologist Ellen Hendriksen in herSavvy Psychologist column .

When we are overwhelmed and anxious, the fight and flight system takes control of body and mind. Often making us frozen and helpless. However, there are methods that will help you deal with being overwhelmed. In her Savvy Psychologist podcast Hendriksen suggests an exercise that she calls 5-4-3-2-1. Although it is a ground exercise for people experiencing a dissociative state, you don't need to feel detached from reality to put it to good use, writes Hendriksen.

So, here is how to perform Ellen Hendriksen's 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. The exercise is designed to engage all your senses to provide immediate relief from being overwhelmed and anxious.

Start by looking at your surroundings and just name 5 things you can see immediately.
The next step is to listen the noise around you and identify four sounds you can hear.
The third step is touch, after sight and sound. Name three things you can touch.
Fourth step is naming something to smell, like your coffee, a flower or scent of a new book.
And last sense here is taste, name something you can taste.

According to Hendriksen, this exercise serves two purposes. "First, it grounds you in your senses and, more importantly, the present moment. Second, keeping track of the counting and working your way through your senses interrupts spinning thoughts." Essentially, you will experience a mini moment of mindfulness.

(Image Credit: Thinkstock)

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