5-4-3-2-1, Ground Down

5-4-3-2-1, blast off!

No, not this time. Quite the opposite.

5-4-3-2-1, ground down.

5-4-3-2-1 is a recentering or grounding technique. What you do is move through the senses and name:

  • 5 things you see

  • 4 things you feel

  • 3 things you smell

  • 2 you hear

  • 1 you taste (or want to taste)

As it can take a few minutes, my daughters and I usually do it on our 20 minute drive to school. Hey, if it helps loosen my clench on the steering wheel it can’t hurt to sooth nerves over the third period math test or tensions about the latest middle grade drama. Still, my daughter’s often aren’t terribly eager – so I mix it up.

I ask them each to share:

  • 5 gratitudes

  • 4 things you like about yourself

  • 3 things you’re looking forward to

  • 2 things that bring you joy

  • 1 positive thing you’re going to put out into the world today

This format flew a few times, then my passengers started complaining again. It was time to appeal to their whims, not my own. This was easy to do–they’re Swifties, after all. I asked them to name:

  • 5 Taylor Swift songs

  • 4 of her albums

  • 3 Eras tour stops

  • 2 lyrics that speak to them

  • 1 favourite song

Thank you Taylor, for breathing new life into our 5-4-3-2-1 ritual!

As it turned out, all that practice payed dividends.

My phone rang one hour into the school day, on first Monday after March Break. My youngest daughter wept on the other end. Apparently, the middle grade drama picked up where it left off before the holiday.

Sob. Sniff. “Come pick me up. Now.” Gasp for air.

At the same time my heart panged, my mind raced. Bringing her home wouldn’t make going to school the next day any easier. But at this moment, she was a train wreck gaining speed and I didn’t know how she was going to pull herself together.

Then I had it. A mommy epiphany. Thanks to our ride to school ritual, my daughter had a tool in her self-regulation toolbox.

“Could you find a quiet spot and do your 5-4-3-2-1?” I asked her over the phone.

She could.

Zing, zam, zap! Epiphany number two popped into my head.

“Could you do it imagining you’re in Belize?” (we’d just gotten home from there). “Or in an arena?” (she lives to play hockey).

She could try that, too.

I hung up the phone, turned the ringer on high and kept it tethered to my body for the rest of the day. But it didn’t ring again. Not once. And trust me, I checked it–more than a few times.

I asked her that evening if she did her 5-4-3-2-1 that day.

“Most of them,” she replied.

Most of them was enough for me. And her, too. Although her hurt hadn’t been mended, she was able to hunker down and concentrate on her school work. Apparently, she’d never had a more productive day.

I’m glad one of us did.

Next time, I had better follow my own advice.

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