010 Anxiety and Intentional Attention
This is Dr. Tori. Welcome to the Influence Every Day show where we make every day better and we influence for good.
During the pandemic. I did a lot of work in peer support where I would help those who work in health care going through various stressors, whether the stress was at home, whether it was politics, whether it was the pandemic itself, whether it was work and staffing shortages and all these things. I would help people through the emotional response and sort of shunt them to resources if they needed other resources.
But I'll tell you one thing. There's something that kept coming back time and time again as something that people said was helpful. Not only do I want to share with you what that thing is, which is an exercise called five, four, three, two, one. Perhaps you may have heard of it. Perhaps you may have tried it yourself. It's something that we typically sort of instruct people on how to do as it relates to anxiety, to help them decrease their anxiety in the moment.
But that all people kept coming back and telling me that, you know what? That really helped. And not only did it help me with the anxiety I was experiencing at work, but it helped me at home. It even helped me with other emotions, other negative emotions that I didn't want to experience or that I wanted to sort of reset and get myself into a more appropriate state to address the thing at hand. This thing kept coming back again and again with people giving me feedback, saying that this thing was awesome and now this may or may not work for you.
So in this episode of Influence Every Day, I'm not only going to instruct you on how to do it. Perhaps you find benefit in that. But I also want to tell you why it works for a lot of people because the why behind it might serve you in lots of ways.
This five, four, three, two, one exercise is easy to do and it's easy to remember. Essentially the way this works. Five, four, three, two, one. You essentially pick a sense, one of your five senses and pick a few things to focus on. And then you just sort of march through each 1/1. In the moment, you pick five things that you can see. Look for five things around the room outside, wherever you are. Look for five things that you can see and take a brief moment and pause on each one to experience it. So right now, as I am recording this for you, I can see out my window and I can see a lawn. I can see grass. Right? So if I focus on the grass, I can see its colors, its shades, the fact that there are butterflies flitting in it, etc... So I'm looking at the grass. That's one of the five. Then I see my desk. I have a desk that has a treadmill with it. So I have a walking desk so I can do exercise on it. So I look at it and I see, Oh, it's pretty organized. You know, a few things off to the side that I have to do. I see some trinkets and knickknacks that my daughter bought for me that remind me of fun stuff with the family. I go through five things. That was just to the grass and my desk. I could look around and pick something else. It might be a lamp, it might be a carpet or a design and a carpet or whatever.
You pick five things and you just focus on them briefly for a few seconds. Just experience them in the moment. Five things you can see. Then you do the same thing with four things you can hear. Four things you can hear. I hear my own voice. I hear the hum of an air conditioner. I hear the hum of the lights that are lighting me right now. I hear these things and I just focus on them briefly.
Then move on to three things that you can feel. I can feel the glasses on my face. If I pay attention to them. I can feel my watch on my wrist. I can feel the seat underneath my rear end. I feel those. I experience them for a brief moment.
Then move on to two things that I can smell. And then one thing that I can taste.
Five, four, three, two, one.
Five things you can see.
Four things you can hear.
Three things you can feel.
Two things you can smell.
One thing you can taste.
And you know what? You usually don't even get to smell or taste because by that time you've already put your attention elsewhere and you physiologically started to reset. What do I mean by that? Well, physiologically, you experience anger or frustration or anxiety or stress with certain physiologic responses. Perhaps your heart rate goes up. Perhaps you have a different sensation on your skin, perhaps your nostrils flare. Perhaps you experience palpitations, not just your heart rate going up, but you experience palpitations. Or maybe your breathing changes, or maybe your mind is racing with all of those fears. Those are all physiologic responses to stress. By the way, those same physiologic responses might be causes at times, right? So sometimes when you have those physiologic responses, it induces stress and vice versa.
When you have stress, you have those physiologic responses. What's interesting about five, four, three, two, one is that you're diverting your attention. That allows you a brief moment of pulling your attention away from that which was bothering you to begin with.
There's a premise, I would say it's a truth that is spoken throughout the coaching world. Therapy world. Certainly, I hear it all the time from my hypnotherapy teachers and my hypnotherapy instructors. Where attention goes, energy flows, where attention goes, energy flows. And what's interesting is we can only put our attention on 5 to 9 things at a time. So, therefore, if you march through the senses and you go through five things, you can see four things you can hear three things you can feel. So when you focus on these other things, it gives you enough time for your body to sort of physiologically do a little less of what it was doing before, whether it was palpitations or a higher heart rate. Maybe the heart rate comes down a little bit. Your mind racing, maybe it's not racing as much. Maybe the breathing is a little bit slower. It gives a little bit of time for a physiologic reset.
They can address the anxiety, but it won't take the actual thing that's causing the anxiety away. But what it will do is it will help you get into a state that makes you better able to address it, better able to handle the thing in front of you. Oftentimes, we're anxious or upset or frustrated about something that's not even right in front of us right now. It might be some conversation you had with a spouse or a significant other, or it might be someone else's health or it might be your own health.
But in that moment right there, there's nothing for you to do about it. Right in that moment, while you're at work, you need to show up to work. You're you need to show up for that next person in that meeting or that or you're going to a friend's house to help them feel better. You need to be there for them, right? How can you be there in that moment? Or perhaps you're working on something for yourself. You might even be doing something as mundane as paying bills at home. But you're anxious or upset about an argument you had earlier. Well, that argument isn't good, and that stress isn't going to help you do your bills better or clean the house better, or have that relationship with your kids, or make dinner, or enjoy dinner even with all that stuff going on swirling around in your head.
Five, four, three, two, one. Allows you to divert your attention enough so that you can handle the things that are in front of you right now, enough to physiologically reset, to be not anxious while you're playing with your kids, to be not anxious while you're shopping at the grocery store, to be not anxious while you're having an important conversation with your spouse, whatever the thing is, where attention goes, energy flows. If you're putting your attention on the thing that makes you angry, the thing that makes you anxious, then that is where all of your energy is going to go. Now, what's even more interesting to me is that my hypnotherapy teacher said something the other day. He added a line to where attention goes, energy flows, where attention goes, energy flows and that thing grows. Where attention goes, energy flows and that thing grows.
If you're putting your attention on the negative news, then that thing is going to seem bigger. It's going to grow. If you're putting your attention on gossip and negative energy and negative thoughts and suspicion about other people, then guess what? That suspicion is going to grow. Those negative thoughts are going to grow. That poor relationship with those people is going to get worse. If you put your attention on that fight you just had or that argument you just had, energy is going to flow towards that thing and that thing is going to become more impactful, more significant, heavier on your heart, where attention goes, energy flows, and that thing grows, therefore.
Use your attention deliberately. Be deliberate about where you put your attention. Be intentional about where you put your attention. What I submit to you is for you first to try. Five, four, three, two, one. Try it. When you experience a negative emotion that you think might be negatively impacting you. Right. Sometimes negative emotions are important and they're actually good to have. But if it becomes excessive, then you try. Five, four, three, two, one. Look for five things you can see and actually experience each one. Experience visualizing or seeing that thing in the moment. And then move through all the senses. Four things that you can hear. Three things that you can feel. March through the senses and actually experience each one. Your first task is when you're feeling a negative emotion that is also having a negative impact. Try five, four, three, two, one. In the days ahead. Try it. By the way, you don't even need a negative emotion. You can just try it and notice that you actually feel a little calmer. Even if you think you're not stressed right now.
Just try it. Look around the room. Five things you can see. Pick one, experience it. Pick another. Experience it. Pick another. Experience it. Go through it. Try it. Two other things I want you to do. I want you to ask yourself, where are you spending your attention? Spending your attention. Where are you spending it? Now, that's not usually a verb we use for attention. But I want you to think of it that way. Where are you spending your attention? Pay attention to those and ask yourself, is that wise? Are those good for me? Are those beneficial? Are those helpful for me or for my relationships or for how I serve the world? If not, find a way to reduce them or cut them off. Now another follow-up question. Where are you investing your attention? Where might you invest your attention? Investing your attention into something that is growth oriented. Something that is productive. Something that you know. Podcasts like this one. Books that help you grow. Read some books. Where are you putting your attention? Where are you investing your attention? Where are you spending it? Where is it not benefiting you? That's where you're spending it. Where are you investing it? That's where it's benefiting you. Every input counts. So beware of negative anxiety-producing news where the world is ending every 5 minutes, where somebody is dying and there's a mass shooting and there's this negative stuff going on in politics and there's this war in the world and there's this oppression going on, that negative news coming in. Even if you're one of those people that thinks I can have the TV on or something on in the background of some radio show or something in the background because I need background noise will pick different background noise, pick beneficial background noise, pick something that is motivational, something that is good for you, something that is growth-oriented as background noise.
Not the local news, not the world news, not some dysfunctional talk show. Put something good on every input counts. Everything coming in through your ears, everything coming in through your eyes. So be intentional about where you put your attention. I hope you find this helpful. Try five, four, three, two, one.
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