You can help your anxious child by implementing a few simple grounding techniques. Begin by urging her to slow down and take deep breaths. She can also burn off some of the energy generated by anxiety by doing something physical, like walking around the room. After that, help her focus her attention on the immediate situation by employing the “3 x 5 + 1” technique. All she has to do is answer the following questions:
- What are five colors I see right now?
- What are five sounds I hear right now?
- What are five things I physically feel right now (not emotions, but sensations like wind in the hair, the room temperature, etc.)?
- What do I need to be doing or thinking about—right now?
This exercise utilizes her senses to pull her back into the present. It can also be used to retrain the brain over longer periods of time. Have her write the four questions on an index card and put it on her nightstand or dresser.
Every morning, after naming the five colors, sounds, and sensations, she asks herself, “What do I need to do right now? Go to the bathroom? Put on my robe?” Once she has the answer, she goes and does that one thing. This is a great way to eliminate “what if ” thinking and get the mind moving in an entirely new direction.
Have your child practice this four-question technique three to five times throughout the day. It doesn’t matter when or where. The object is practice, practice, and more practice. Finally, as she gets ready for bed at night, have her go through the four questions one last time. If your child practices this technique over a two- to three-month period as consistently as possible, it will effectively retrain her brain to be more naturally grounded in the present moment and reduce her level of anxiety tremendously, if not completely.