I will be writing a series about some simple techniques which could help children and adults with triggered anxiety to help manage their symptoms. (Please note that severe anxiety which is impacting significantly on a person’s life may need the intervention of medical professionals and trained therapists).
The 3-3-3 technique is a wonderful tool to use with children as it is easy for them to remember. The objective is for them to feel more mindful, focused and grounded when their anxiety is starting to feel overwhelming.
3-3-3 involves the person identifying 3 objects around them they can see, 3 things that they can hear and moving 3 body parts (ie their fingers, wrists and toes). It works to reconnect the person with their physical surroundings and become aware of their body movements instead of their symptoms of anxiety like intrusive thoughts. Some steps from Choosing Therapy:
Step 1: Focus on 3 Objects You Can See
Focusing on things that you can see helps you become visually aware of your surroundings. You can notice big objects such as a tree or a chair, or you can look for smaller, more discreet objects such as a pencil or a coin. The idea isn’t necessarily to have objects in mind that you want to see, but rather to focus on the world around you. This helps you deal with your anxiety by removing you from the mental chatter causing you stress.
Step 2: Focus on 3 Things You Can Hear
Pinpointing sounds is another great way to help you deal with anxiety. Diverting your attention to your environment can help you transition from a state of inward thinking to one in which you’re connected to your surroundings instead. However, depending on your location, you may have a hard time isolating sounds. Some things to listen for include a clock ticking, clacking of keys on a keyboard, or someone sniffling. If you are somewhere outdoors, you may notice leaves rustling in the wind, cars passing by, or dogs barking.
Step 3: Focus on 3 Things You Can Touch/Move
Lastly, find three things that you can touch or move. These can be within your reach or even parts of your body. Identifying tangible items is one of the fastest ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling anxious. Teaching yourself to focus on the physical environment helps you feel anchored and reminds you to be present.