- Take a few moments to listen to the noises around you. What do you hear? If you hear people talking, what are they saying? Let the sounds wash over you and remind you where you are.
- Loud sounds are hard to ignore. When something is loud, your mind can’t focus on anything else. Music can serve the same function - but is much more enjoyable. Find a favourite song or a song that you love, and play it! Loudly! If you can’t blast loud music, you can also tap out the tune with your hands. The drumming will have the same effect. Music, in general, is an amazing tool to shut down intrusive thoughts or stick to the present.
- Stop and take a moment to listen. Just listen. What do you hear? Birds chirping? Cars outside? Maybe it’s really quiet where you are and all you can hear is your own breath or your heart beating. Notice and name what sounds you can hear nearby. Start with the closest or loudest sounds. Gradually move your awareness of sounds outward, so you are focusing on what you can hear in the distance.
- Use your voice. This will help bring you back to the present. You can say your name, a friend’s name, pick up a book and read aloud the first paragraph you see, or just read out the ingredients on a bag of chips! Whatever it is, make it something that calms you or brings you joy.
- Listen to music or sing your favourite song. Put on the song (or sing), but pretend you’re listening to it for the first time. Focus on the melody and lyrics (if there are any). Does the song give you chills or create any other physical sensations? Pay attention to the parts that stand out most to you. If you want an extra activity, listen to a favourite song again, and try to listen to a random part of the musical instrumentation that is not the melody like the drums, the bass guitar, or something else in the background. Follow that instrument throughout the song. How do you feel afterwards?
Looking and other senses
- Take a look outside your window. Count the number of trees or cars you see!
- Find any object near to you. It can be smooth or rough or soft. Anything with texture works, even your own carpet! Focus on what this item feels like in your hands. How would you describe it? You can even talk out loud about what you are thinking or doing. Using our senses, whether it’s sight, touch, or sound, can remind us of where we are and what’s real.
- The same way we have used the textures of objects, heat and cold are also great ways to tap into our senses. Pause and pour yourself either a hot or cold drink, like a glass of water or a hot cup of coffee or tea.
- Take a breath in and take a moment to look around the room you are in. As you do that, pick one interesting object in your field of vision. This can be anything from a windowsill, to a chair, to the shoes you are wearing. It doesn’t matter what it is, just something you can see. Slowly, trace its outline with your eyes, as if you were drawing its lines. If you can, remember to keep breathing while you draw its outline.
- Take note of what you’re wearing, how the clothes feel on your body. Are they soft, warm, rough, tight or loose? Notice how your feet feel to be encased in shoes or socks, or resting on the floor. What does the inside of your shirt feel like on your skin? Is it scratchy, soft, light, heavy? Is there somewhere on your body you can feel heat, or maybe that is a bit chilly?
- Splash some water on your face. Notice how it feels. Notice how the towel feels as you dry. Use words in your mind to describe the sensations.
- Rub your hand lightly over the carpet or a piece of furniture, noting the texture.
- Pick a colour that you like, maybe one that makes you feel calm, or makes you smile. Now, look around the room you are in and try and identify all of the things in the room that are that colour. As you find them, say them out loud. Try and find at least four things in the room. If you can’t find anything in your room, try looking out a window, or conjure a picture of four things in your mind and say them out loud.
- Slowly inhale, then exhale. If it helps, you can say or think “in” and “out” with each breath. Feel each breath filling your lungs and note how it feels to push it back out. Do this six times.
- Think of a word that makes you calm. It could be “peaceful,” “safe,” “relax” or “breathe”. Now, take your index finger as you would a pen and softly trace the letters of your calming word, into the palm of your opposite hand.
- If you feel comfortable, close your eyes. Now think about a calming colour and as you take a deep breath in, imagine the air that is coming into your body is that colour and it’s calming every part of your body inside you. Now as you exhale, imagine a strong colour like red or orange coming out along with your stress, anxiety and fears. Do this three times.
- Close your eyes and take a moment to think of a happy memory you’ve experienced. It doesn’t have to be a particularly meaningful memory, just a moment of levity which made you smile. If you’re struggling to think back, maybe pick the last time something or someone made you really laugh. Now situate yourself in that memory. Whether it feels more natural to inhabit yourself as you were experiencing the memory or take an external perspective - like you’re on the outside looking in - it’s up to you. As you look around this memory, think about what colour you associate that memory with. Whatever colour you pick, start to focus on your breathing (in for four seconds, hold for four, out for four usually works for us). On every out-breath, imagine yourself breathing out that colour and filling the memory with it. Every out-breath makes the memory a little bit more saturated. Continue this breathing until the memory is fully saturated with that colour. Look around you and feel the joy of the colour and the memory fill you up; whenever you are ready to leave, take a moment to say goodbye to this memory.