I will begin by saying that I have always been an anxious person. After my accident, my anxiety went through the roof and I started having frequent panic attacks.
Going through a traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a nightmare for anyone. For someone that already has anxiety, it definitely is a living nightmare. I managed to have anxiety back when I was going non-stop and didn’t even have time to think. Being hurt and being idle for extended periods leaves way too much time for thinking, worrying, and imaging worst-case scenarios. I have never been so still ever, in my entire life, as I am now.
I never really addressed my anxiety before my accident. I knew I was an anxious person, and I knew that my behavior reflected it, but I didn’t feel the need to do anything about it.
After my accident it became debilitating. Part of my TBI rehabilitation plan had to include learning how to handle my anxiety and not let it control my life.
A technique that I learned in therapy and was recently reminded of in my daily calm app meditation, is the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. The goal of this technique is to help you to get out of your own head and the vicious cycle of anxious thoughts that lead to panic attacks.
The first step is to be able to realize when you are beginning to fall into the high anxiety cycle. To me, being in control enough of my thoughts and my emotions to recognize it was the hardest part. Once I got that down (well, I should say got better at it, it’s harder than you would think it would be) using the technique was easy.
It is simple to do really. When you feel your anxious thoughts taking control, you have to get out of your head and reconnect with the world around you. When you realize it’s happening, just try and sit down for a moment and take a deep breath.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Then you are going to become aware of 5 things you can see in your enviroment. Then 4 things you can hear in your environment. Then 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Sounds so simple it seems weird right.
Sometimes you might have to really stretch to find things in your environment because your thoughts are so overpowering when they are anxious thoughts. They can be inanimate objects in the room. Faint sounds in the distance or piece of jewelry you are wearing that you can touch. Smells might be strong like cut grass or faint like the smell of a flower. You might taste the chocolate you just ate or the coffee you just drank.
This is a simple way to occupy your mind when you realize your anxiety is starting to take control. It helps you to connect with the world around you and calm your anxious inner voice.
If you can learn to do this, it is not a cure for anxiety or panic, but it does help! At least it helps me, I highly recommend giving it a try!