Sometimes we need a soothing break when there simply is no time for it. We’re in the middle of a meeting, surrounded by children, or otherwise unable to step away and take a minute. There are ways to self-soothe even in those busy moments, and they only take a few seconds.
One of my favorite “on the go” things to do is to take notice of 5 things. The first 5 are things you can see. (You can also look for items of a specific color if you need to increase focus, but I don’t use this method. For me, it’s too distracting to use when I’m otherwise busy.)
Right now, I see the coffee mug a friend gave me, a pink heart that used to have candy in it, my journal, my notes for my current story project, and of course, my keyboard.
The second five things are things you can hear.
I hear the water running in the aquarium, the click of the keyboard as I type, the air conditioner, a child in the courtyard outside, and the whirring of my computer fan. (Yes, it’s a quiet environment right now. I need to have coffee, then I can add music.)
The third list is things you can feel in contact with your body.
I feel the weight of my glasses on the bridge of my nose, the softness of my favorite t-shirt, the texture of my chair’s upholstery under my legs, the warmth of my house shoes, and the smoothness of the keys on the keyboard.
The benefit of this exercise is that it helps you ground yourself when you begin to feel overwhelmed. It draws your mental and emotional processes out of whatever cycle they’re in and refocuses them on the current environment without having you hyper focus on what’s causing distress. Having a rough meeting with a boss? Run these counts. You can do it while paying attention and responding, and still get some relief. You’ll be better able to listen and respond without being swept up in a wave of emotions.
I use it during my day job as an account representative. I’ll have several calls a day where a customer is either angry about something that has not gone as promised, or has dug in their heels on a demand they’re expecting to be met. I count 5 things I see, 5 things I hear (other than the customer), and 5 things I can feel. It takes less than 20 seconds to run through all three lists and it forces me to step back and disengage so I can work with the situation at hand and not take things personally.
I do suggest that if you use this when your attention can’t be diverted, such as when driving, exercise some caution. You don’t want to become distracted and have an accident! If you’re far too stressed and need a break, just pull over for a moment. It’s okay to get off the road and put the car in park while you take a few deep breaths. You’ll feel better once you’re back in control of your emotional state, and be a better driver, too!