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Three step technique to calm down (with accompanying audio)

Updated: Nov 16, 2021

This is a technique that I do with clients in therapy to move through difficult thoughts and feelings. We do it together and repeat it until it’s starting to touch the sides i.e. they are starting to feel a bit more grounded.

I’m going to explain it to you now, but at the end of the text I’ve also included an audio where I guide you through it. I really recommend listening to this as my client’s say it makes a big difference having me guiding them through verses trying to read the instructions (you’re far more likely to do it rather than just read about it).

This technique is called Dropping Anchor* – imagine you are being tossed about at sea in a storm of emotions and thoughts. Dropping Anchor stops you from being swept away by the storm. It doesn’t magically stop the difficult thoughts and feelings but you will feel more able to get through the storm.

All the best psychology techniques have an acronym to help you remember, so memorise ACE:

Acknowledge the thoughts and feelings that are currently here, doing this with kindness and curiosity. You can close your eyes for this if it helps: What thoughts are going through your mind? What sensations are in your body?

Come back to your body by noticing the sensations available to your five senses: try pushing your feet into the ground; noticing the breath entering and leaving the body (e.g. at the nostrils notice how the air is warmer on the outbreath and cooler on the inbreath), place your hands on your knees and notice the warmth there.

Engage Open your eyes and take in your surroundings, engaging fully in one thing around you. A nice way of doing this is to label 5 things you can see; 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can reach out and touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste in your mouth.

Now repeat this at least once but often twice or three times is required.

Often we feel like we need to run away from difficult emotions and experiences but when we turn to look at them with curiosity we are creating space for them and then we aren’t using all our energy to keep them at bay.

*Dropping Anchor is from Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), introduced to me by leading ACT expert Russ Harris.

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