With the holidays approaching, I thought I might share a really simple and incredibly helpful skill that can be used to support yourself (or your child) in moments of heightened anxiety or over stimulation.
Have you ever experienced a panic attack? Felt touched out or over-stimulated? Struggled to help a toddler or child soothe from a “temper tantrum”?
I would like to share with you a skill that I have used personally, professionally, and with my children called the coping skills toolbox: The 5 Senses.
The 5 Senses
The 5 senses include:
1. Taste 2. Touch 3. Feel 4. Sight 5. Smell
When you or someone you know is experiencing a panic attack, noticing warning signs for a panic attack, or are in need of a mindfulness moment (being present in the moment)-you can guide them or yourself gently through the 5 sense as a grounding technique.
For example, you may choose a lollipop. Really focus on it’s taste, texture, smell, and color. Then, drink a glass of cold water. Notice how it cools you going down to your stomach. Touch a plush toy, a soft blanket, or pet your canine/feline companion. Notice how smooth or soft this is. Use lotion with a scent. Notice the smell and texture on your hands. Look out the window and notice the colors of the leafs, the sun, and intricate shadows on the ground. Lastly, notice the sounds around you-foot steps, wind, humming sound, or music.
After you have taken some time with this, you will notice feeling grounded, more at ease, and relaxed.
So why does this work? When someone is experiencing a panic attack, their frontal lobe stops working and their flight/fight/freeze response is triggered. The frontal lobe supports us in processing long term consequence as well as formulate plans to support ourselves when we need it (i.e. coping skills). The 5 senses actually support us in essentially turning your frontal lobe back on so that we may think more clearly and stop a panic attack in it's tracks.
Though children do not have developed frontal lobes yet, this is still a very helpful tool; supporting them through redirection and grounding.
Pro tip: Put together a coping skills toolbox first aide kit using a makeup bag or zip lock bag to bring with you anywhere. This way, it’s readily accessible when you really need it.