Coping skills

Take 5

Photo by Ari Alqadri on

By Katie Donahoo

Coping skills are the things you do help yourself manage and regulate your emotions in a moment of overwhelm or dis-regulation. Coping skills can be anything from taking a deep breath, coloring, or doing a physical activity. Often, coping skills are some of the first things individuals learn when coming into counseling. Many people do not know how to regulate their emotions and this can be what brings them into counseling in the first place. Not all coping skills are created equal and not all skills work effectively for all people.

The Take 5 is a version of a grounding technique I learned long ago. Grounding techniques are coping strategies that help to alleviate anxiety, panic, and overwhelm by utilizing the 5 senses. This strategy takes less than 5 minutes to complete and can be easily remembered by assigning one of your senses to each of your 5 fingers. By utilizing each of your senses you bring yourself to a physical and mental state of relaxation. Give it a try.

Sight: Take a moment to look around you. Find 5 objects and state out loud the name and color of 5 objects. For Example – green grass, brown chair, orange leaf, blue house, red shirt.

Sound: Close your eyes and tune into your sense of hearing. Listen closely. Can you name 5 sounds you hear? For Example: a car driving by, foot steps, ticking clock, male/female voice, papers rustling.

Touch: Walk around the space you are in and find 5 various objects that you can touch. Pick up each object and speak the description of how the object feels in your hands. For Example: velvety pillow, rough rock, smooth and cold table top, waxy leaves on a plant, the heaviness of a blanket. Alternatively you could tune into your body and identify things you feel touching your body in this moment. For Example: wrist watch, back against a chair, rings on your fingers, shoes on your feet, waistband of your clothing, etc.

Smell: Look closely at your surroundings. Can you find 5 things to smell? Quick tip; they do NOT have to smell good. For Example: lotion, chapstick, room spray, your shoe, the trash can, etc.

Taste: While difficult in some settings finding 5 different tastes can be very helpful. Challenge yourself with this one. For Example: describe the taste in your mouth before tasting anything else, gum, candy, chap stick on your lips, soda, tea, coffee, water, salt, sugar, etc.

Did you try it? How do you feel? Pretty silly I’d imagine if you weren’t experiencing any anxiety when you tried it. As with most skills, the effective use of coping strategies increases with practice. The more frequently you check in with yourself and utilize a skill the better you will be able to implement it during a time of great need. Challenge yourself to have some of the harder to find items required for this kind of strategy with you in the places where you experience the most anxiety: school, work, in your car.

If you struggle with recurrent panic attacks please seek professional help in managing your symptoms. Severe anxiety and panic attacks can be extremely disruptive to life function. Help is out there. Help is here. Reach out to Blue Elephant Counseling by registering for a free consultation today.