Two Quick Techniques for Calming Down

July 6, 2021

These practices can help both young people and adults stay grounded when anxiety arises. 


It can be helpful for us, and for our students, to learn simple practices we can use to calm ourselves when we are feeling tense or anxious. 

The activities described below, 5-Sense Memory and 2:1 Breathing, both activate the body's parasympathetic nervous system, which decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension, preparing the body for rest, sleep, or digestion. 

Consider doing these two activities together, in either order. 

boy meditating

 


5-Sense Memory


This is a good technique for grounding yourself during moments of anxiety.

Keep your eyes open and go through this process whenever needed, in whatever space you're in.

Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor, your hands on your legs, your spine comfortably straight. Close your eyes if you can. Otherwise, focus on a spot in front of you. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Repeat. 

Imagine one of your favorite places from any part of your life. As you remember it, start to walk toward it in your mind. 

As you walk into it, find...
 

  • 5 things that you can see 
     
  • 4 things you can touch
     
  • 3 things you can hear
     
  • 2 things you can smell
     
  • 1 thing you can taste
     

Acknowledge and take in all of the positive feelings this place holds for you.  

Know that it is forever with you and you can come back here anytime you want to. 

As you back away from this memory, take the gifts of this memory with you to help and sustain you today.
 



2:1 Breathing


2:1 breathing is simply exhaling for twice as long as one inhales.  For example if you inhale on a count of 3, you would exhale for a count of 6.  If you inhale for 4, exhale for 8, etc.  
 

  • Sit in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor, spine comfortably straight. Hands can be in your lap or resting gently on your belly. You can close your eyes or not. If your eyes are open, try to focus on a point in front of you.
     
  • To begin, take a a couple of deep gentle abdominal breaths. Don’t worry about what the count is at this point. The objective is to just calm the breath.
     
  • Now, take a deep gentle abdominal breath in for 3 seconds. Hold it for a count of 1.  Then release it for a count of 6.  Hold for a count of 1 and then repeat for at least 3 breaths. Do the counting in your mind and let the numbers flow softly and easily.
     
  • To help extend the exhale, make sure to use your abdominal muscles to gently push out all of the air. Your shoulders should not be helping you breathe. They move as a consequence of being on top of your abdomen, not to help you draw in a breath.
     
  • As you exhale, let the tension in your body leave with your breath. Let it drain down from your head, your shoulders, your hands, your legs, your feet.
     
  • As you inhale, bring in calm, peaceful energy.

 

Variations

If this activity follows the 5-Sense Memory, breathe in the positive feelings from that memory.

As you inhale, you can breathe in your intent for the rest of the day, and let it fill you. Each breath in of your intent will fill you further.  Fill your arms, your legs, your hands, feet, neck, and face.

When doing the activity with a group of people, model the technique, then tell participants that you'll be doing the activity for a certain range of breaths (perhaps 3-4) - and ask them to find their own rhythm.