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5, 4, 3, 2, 1 — A Simple Grounding Exercise to Calm Anxiety

Anxiety derailing your day? Get to know the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 grounding method — a simple exercise for calming the mind that can alleviate anxiety in minutes.

In an unpredictable world, it’s easy to get caught up in stress and anxiety. Grounding techniques offer a practical way to pull your focus back from what’s worrying you and return you to the present moment. They’re especially helpful for calming the body’s fight-or-flight response and achieving a more balanced state of mind.

Why are grounding techniques helpful?

Stress and anxiety have become common, almost daily, experiences for most of us. Between work deadlines, social responsibilities, and life’s uncertainties, it’s no wonder many of us feel on edge. That’s why learning effective ways to calm your mind in stressful situations is so essential for maintaining your mental health.

This is where grounding techniques come into play. By shifting your attention from unsettling thoughts to the here and now, these exercises provide quick relief from anxiety and contribute to your overall mental well-being.

If you’re a veteran struggling with anxiety, try the Overcoming Stress and Anxiety series on the Calm app.

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Grounding Technique 

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique is one of the easiest mindfulness strategies designed for managing stress and anxiety, as it can be done almost anywhere and at any time. It’s also one of the most effective. Using the five senses to ground you in the present moment. This is how it works:

5 | Name 5 things you can see

Take a moment to spot five things in your immediate environment. Whether it’s a basic office chair or a cherished family photo, the goal is to really see the details—like colour, form, and texture. By diverting your focus to your sense of sight, you disrupt the cycle of anxious or stressful thoughts.

4 | Name 4 things you can hear

Close your eyes and listen to the ambient noises around you. They could be anything from a fan humming to birds singing, or people talking in the distance. Identifying these sounds helps steer your mind away from inward worries and more toward the world around you, anchoring you in the present moment.

3 | Name 3 things you can feel

Concentrate on the sense of touch to further ground yourself. Become aware of three things you can feel. They could be the fabric of your clothes against your skin, the texture of an item you’re holding, or the solidity of the floor under your feet.

2 | Name 2 things you can smell

Take a deep breath and identify two distinct smells around you. They could be the welcoming aroma of fresh coffee or the clean scent of hand soap. Tuning into these smells helps shift your focus from looping thoughts to your immediate surroundings, reinforcing your connection to the present moment.

1 | Name 1 thing you can taste

Finally, focus on your sense of taste. You might want to take a sip of water or simply focus on the lingering flavour of toothpaste in your mouth. Centering on this final sense completes the cycle and firmly brings you back to the present moment.

How The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Technique Works

More than just a quick fix, the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique is a  mindfulness exercise that can help you get a handle on your state of mind, especially when dealing with social anxiety or situations where you need to calm down quickly. The beauty of this method lies in its ability to shift your focus and engage your senses, helping you to relax.

Calms the nervous system

When you experience stress or anxiety, your body’s fight-or-flight system is activated, releasing hormones like adrenaline. This state of hyper-alertness is evolutionary but not always beneficial in modern life. The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique works by counteracting the fight or flight response, bringing your nervous system back to a more balanced state. Try Sigh of Relief to help regulate your nervous system.

Can offer support to those with PTSD

Navigating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be incredibly difficult, but grounding techniques provide potential relief. Disclaimer: While helpful, the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique isn’t the only tool that people experiencing PTSD should rely on. If you are dealing with severe post-traumatic stress, please reach out to your healthcare provider to ensure you receive proper clinical care or therapeutic support.

Aids with panic and stress management

Stress often occurs due to a focus on past regrets or future worries. This exercise serves as an effective stress management tool, forcing your mind to focus on the present moment. The technique is easy to remember and doesn’t require any special equipment, making it accessible anytime you need to manage stress.

Try SOS Breath Work if you find yourself in a panicked state.

Can ease social anxiety

Social situations can often be overwhelming and may trigger social anxiety. Using the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique helps to ground and calm you, enabling you to be more present in social interactions. Explore Meaningful Practice for Meaningful Friendship if you’re struggling with social anxiety.

Assists with grounding

Besides its immediate calming effects, practising the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique regularly can improve your overall emotional regulation and make you feel more grounded during a multitude of situations in life. This is because the exercise empowers you to take control of your mental state so you feel confident to confront and handle emotional challenges.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 exercise for anxiety FAQs

Q: What is the 54321 method?

The 54321 (or 5, 4, 3, 2, 1) method is a grounding exercise designed to manage acute stress and reduce anxiety. It involves identifying 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. By doing so, it helps shift your focus from anxiety-provoking thoughts to the present moment.

Q: What is the 5-sense method?

The 5-sense method is essentially another name for the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique. It leverages the power of your five senses—sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste—to redirect your attention away from distressing thoughts and emotions. By focusing on sensory experiences, the method aims to ground you in the here and now.

Q: Why does the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 coping technique work?

The 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method works because it engages multiple senses, requiring you to concentrate on the present environment rather than dwell on anxiety-inducing thoughts. This interrupts the fight or flight response, calming the nervous system and reducing symptoms of anxiety or stress almost immediately. Moreover, it can serve as the first step toward long-term coping strategies for mental wellness.

Q: What is the 3-3-3 rule for anxiety?

The 3-3-3 rule is another grounding technique aimed at reducing anxiety. In this method, you identify 3 things you can see, 3 things you can touch, and then take 3 deep breaths. While it’s less comprehensive than the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 method, it serves a similar purpose—providing quick relief from acute anxiety by refocusing your attention on the present moment. In the end, choose whatever method works best for you.

If you are experiencing an emergency or crisis, please contact 000 or reach out to a Support Service

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We will only collect and process personal information about you where we have a lawful basis to do so. Lawful basis includes consent (where you have given consent such as filling out our “contact us” form), contract (where processing is necessary for the performance of a contract with you) and legitimate interests (including security threats or frauds, compliance with applicable laws, and enabling us to administer our business).

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We may collect your personal information when required by law but generally we collect personal information from you (or about you) to allow us to:

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Personal information collected or received by us will only be used for the stated purpose for which it was provided.

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Your personal information will not be used contrary to this Privacy Policy but may be disclosed to third parties in the following circumstances:

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What if you don’t want us to collect your personal information?

You are not obligated to provide us with your personal information. You may choose whether you receive communications from us. Whilst it is your choice not to provide your personal information to us this may impede our ability to provide you with all of the functionality of our Veteran Benefits Australia Services.

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Should you wish to remove yourself from our contact database you may do so at any time by contacting us at www.veteranbenefitsaustralia.com/contact-us/

How can I access, correct and/or update personal information you have collected?

At any time you may contact our Privacy Officer and request your personal information be modified. We will make all efforts to correct data once we have proved your identity.

We will deal with all requests for access to personal information as quickly as possible, but no later than 30 calendar days from the date of your request (unless any complexities arise).

We will refuse access where the personal information relates to existing or anticipated legal proceedings, and the information would not be accessible by the process of discovery in those proceedings. Further, we will refuse access where your request is frivolous or vexatious, and where we reasonably believe that: giving access would pose a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual, or to public health or public safety; unlawful activity, or misconduct of a serious nature, is being or may be engaged in against Veteran Benefits Australia and giving access would be likely to prejudice the taking of appropriate action in relation to that matter.

If we refuse to give you access we will provide you with reasons for our refusal, unless doing so would be unreasonable in the circumstances. We will also take reasonable steps to give you access in a way that meets your needs without giving rise to the reasons of our refusal. Further, we will provide details of how you may make a complaint about our decision.

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How do we store and protect your personal information?

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Although we take measures to safeguard against unauthorised disclosures of information, we cannot assure you that personal information that we collect will not be disclosed in a manner that is inconsistent with this Privacy Policy.

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These are the terms and conditions of Veteran Benefits Australia. All advices, referrals and other services provided by Veteran Benefits Australia (“Services”) whether via its website at www.veteranbenefitsaustralia.com (“Website”) or by contacting Veteran Benefits Australia in any other manner, are provided on these Terms & Conditions and all customers of Veteran Benefits Australia’s Services (each a “Customer”) agree to these Terms & Conditions as a pre-condition of obtaining any Services from Veteran Benefits Australia. No terms and conditions introduced by the Customer shall take effect to vary these Terms & Conditions unless expressly agreed in writing by Veteran Benefits Australia.

About Veteran Benefits Australia’s Services

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Whilst all care is taken to connect Customers with suitable, qualified and appropriate Service Providers based on the Customer’s instructions as to their needs, Veteran Benefits Australia does not endorse the advices of any Service Provider and expressly disclaims any liability for any products and services provided by Service Providers. Customers are encouraged to consider if the products and services of the Service Provider are suitable for the Customer’s needs and seek independent advice if required.

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Donations, merchandise and paid goods and services

From time to time Veteran Benefits Australia may offer the ability to make a donation or purchase goods or services including merchandise through its Website. The terms of donation or purchase will be in accordance with the online check-out terms and conditions appearing on check-out of the transaction.

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As part of providing social worker services to you, we need to collect and record personal information from you that is relevant to your situation, such as your name, contact information, medical history and other relevant information. This collection of personal information will be a necessary part of the services that are provided.

Viewing Your Accepted Conditions

The following steps will help view the accepted conditions of your DVA white card via the MyGov website.

Step 1:

Go to https://my.gov.au

Sign in to your myGov account using your Username and Password.

You can sign in to myGov using the following:

  • Your username (Your myGov username has 2 letters and 6 numbers. For example XY123456)
  • Your email address used to create your account
  • Your mobile number (if you have enabled this option)

After entering your login details you may be required to provide a one-time access code.

  • A one-time use code is sent by SMS to your mobile phone.

If you do not have a myGov account, you can create one by selecting Create myGov account on the myGov sign-in page.

using the MyGov login page

Step 2:

Once you have logged into your account scroll down until you see the heading ‘Your Services’.

Your Services lists the government programs you access that offer online services through myGov. You should see ‘Department of Veteran Affairs’ listed here.

Select ‘Department of Veteran Affairs’.

If you do not see Department of Veteran Affairs listed you will have to link this service to your account (See the video below).

You can do this by selecting Link another service.

Select the DVA tile

Step 3:

This is your Department of Veterans’ Affairs My Service Home Page.

My Service allows you to access DVA services online such as:

  • Access support for a service-related condition or injury
  • Access your digital DVA Veteran Card
  • Lodge and track the status of your claims

Look in the middle column titled Claims.

Select Accepted Conditions.

Select Accepted Conditions from the Claims Menu

Step 4:

This page shows your digital DVA Veteran Card.

You will see information such as your Card NumberExpiryCard Type and the Conditions listed on your card.

Select the Conditions Listed drop-down menu to view the conditions listed on your card.

Step 5:

Select Print this Page in the top right-hand corner of the page to download your digital DVA Card as a PDF.

Alternatively, if accessing this on your mobile phone you can take a screenshot of this page. Depending on your phone you can:

  • Press the Side button and the Volume up button at the same time (iPhone)
  • Press the Power and Volume Down buttons at the same time


Video on how to log on and link my service: