5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Countdown to ground.
I once stood on a perfectly good mountain and watched another person jump off it. Base jumper. Otherwise known as Crazy Person. I had only seen such things in YouTube videos. Now there I was watching someone do it in real life. You could tell from the person’s body language they gave themselves a countdown before falling off the cliffside. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…plumet. I wondered if they were getting up the nerve to do it. How could you not need a countdown? People aren’t bats. They’re not supposed to fly without an airplane let alone using wafer-thin fabric wings.
Fears and phobias
Here’s a secret about me: I’m afraid of heights. On that day on that mountain top, I was facing my fears simply by being there. Now my fears were face-to-face by someone else’s existential crisis. I experienced an adrenalin rush simply by watching the unbelievable spectacle. I hope he has a Red Bull endorsement. What better way to feel alive than to look death in the face by jumping off a mountain ledge? 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Your life is yours to take.
Anxiety has a purpose evolutionarily: it stems from a place in our brains whose job it is to keep us safe. Being chased by a lion? You had better hope you inherited the ability to react. The drawback is that these days our lions look suspiciously like traffic, or a crowded party, or our thoughts. Our brains have evolved to work against us. Our ‘fight or flight’ response is on overdrive. We feel fear over things that shouldn’t require so much of our energy.
Out of Africa
Nowadays, you may feel the need want to carry around a metaphorical weapon in the event you need to wreck a lion’s day. If you’ve seen Out of Africa, then you’ll remember the scene where Meryl Streep’s character Karen Blixen takes care of business with a rifle. You could do the same with words or avoidance or your middle finger. Or, you could learn to practice mindfulness. It’s free, you can take it anywhere, and the end result is less messy. Your health will thank you for it.
Instead of raging war against your fears, work to manage your anxiety. My favourite meditation to control anxiety involves paying attention to your senses and counting down from 5.
Here’s how to practice the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Exercise:
5 – Catch five things you can see*.
4 – Observe four things your can hear.
3 – Pick out three things you can feel.
2 – Notice two things you can smell.
1 – Identify one thing you can taste.
*If you’re practicing this exercise to help you fall asleep, you can start with your eyes open for the first step or skip to Step 2.
Whenever I practice this technique, I often start at Step 2. Rarely do I make it to Step 3. Not to say it’s a magic formula, but I do find it helps calm nighttime insomnia and anxiety Gremlins.
Save the lions and give it a go. The next time you suffer an anxiety attack, countdown from five. I promise it’s worth the time it takes to say 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.