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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Strazzeri MSW, RSW

2 Easy Techniques for Managing Anxiety

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Did you know that 9% of men and 16% of women in Canada report that they are affected by an anxiety disorder in any given year? These statistics do not include people who struggle with anxiety and do not talk about it or seek help.

panic attack

As humans, we have anxiety for a good and useful purpose. Anxiety can protect us from potential danger by reminding us that it probably isn’t safe to take that shortcut through that dark alley on the way to your car, or by stressing you out about not studying enough for that big exam. But anxiety isn’t always helpful, and it can really affect your life in negative ways when you don’t know how to manage it.

Lots of people struggle with anxiety and usually there is that one thing, or several things that can send us into an anxiety spiral. Everyone is different, and for me it’s usually when I am running late or when something at work is not going like I planned. Typically, something triggers your anxiety and your pulse quickens, perhaps you feel it in your chest as your heart starts to race, or maybe your breathing increases and you have a hard time catching your breath. You find yourself hyper-focused on the trigger that caused the anxiety (I call those negative automatic thoughts, and I will focus on those another time) and before you know it you are feeling super anxious, and you can’t focus on anything else. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, there are many techniques you can learn that will help you manage and lower those anxious feelings.

In my private psychotherapy/counselling practice there are numerous techniques that I teach, but here we will focus on just a couple to help you get started – grounding and distraction.

Here is my version of 54321 Grounding.
  • Sitting comfortably look around at the room you are in.

  • Name (in your head if other people are in the room) 5 things you can see.

  • Name 4 things you can touch and describe how they feel.

    • Is it warm or cold?

    • Soft or hard?

    • Smooth of bumpy?

    • How does it feel under your fingers or hand?

  • Name 3 things you can hear.

  • Name 2 things you can smell (if there are no smells in the room name two smells that you like*).

  • Name 1 good thing about yourself*.

*These things should change every time you use this exercise.

The idea of 54321 grounding (or any grounding technique) is that it stops you from thinking about the anxiety provoking thing for a while. It is usually temporary though, so I suggest that after you use this exercise you find a way to distract yourself from that anxiety provoking thought.

Distraction is anything you can do to take your mind off your emotions. Some examples include:

  • Calling a friend

  • Watching something funny on tv

  • Playing some of your favourite music

  • Petting your pet dog or cat

  • Cooking or baking

  • Exercise (It’s difficult to focus on that negative thought when you are doing jumping jacks)

  • Going for a walk or drive

  • Playing a video game

  • Counting your breaths

  • Using a relaxation technique such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation or Meditation (you can search these on You Tube for free resources).

I hope you find these techniques helpful. For more techniques or information about speaking with a therapist check out my website:

man with cat


Michelle Strazzeri B.A., B.S.W., M.S.W., R.S.W

Niagara Psychotherapy Services

December 30, 2021

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