Isolation: Week 1. The 54321 plan for self soothing.
I am ‘stuck’ indoors with my family: 2 kids (15 and 5), a crazy-mad puppy, an angry/feeling displaced cat and my husband. What could go wrong – apart from getting ill or running out of loo roll?
Well, lots. Let’s face it, it’s a weird situation being at home all together, all day. Trying to work, trying to contain stressful feelings, trying to keep some sort of normality flowing. Getting used to being all together 24/7, getting under each other’s feet, needing some personal, peaceful space etc…
The day it was announced schools were going to shut my husband and I drew up a brief plan of how we were going to sort out family life. Synching diaries so that we could manage phone calls around the children, writing up a loose study plan for the 15 year old and a list of ideas of things we could do for, and with, the small one. It was all fairly relaxed and easy going but even on day 1 it fell apart. The eldest rebelled against the pre-agreed schedule, I got annoyed for feeling like I was holding down the fort being mum, teacher, housewife and counsellor while everyone else just got along in their own little bubble, some phone calls were rearranged at last minute, some went on for a bit longer than planned etc…
So, what to do when it all goes to pot? Usually I do a bit of meditation and a bit of Reiki for myself. If angry cat lets me, I try some on him too. God knows he really needs it! But it’s hard these days when there is no peace or space to do this.
So here’s something I do with my trauma/anxious clients to help them self soothe when I’m not available and when life becomes too overwhelming: the 54321 plan. It helps to bring them back to the present, the here and now. It helps to refocus and bring the front brain back online and is a really good way of bringing peace and calmness to body and soul. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t take long and once you start recognising the signs that you need a bit of a breather from a stressful time, or need to soothe, it can become an automatic part of your mental health first aid kit.
I use this myself when I feel a bit angry, agitated or busy inside and need a little bit of me time to get into a calm, recharged place. I particularly like doing this outside with my bare feet in the grass as it seems to help me to ground myself. If you cannot go outside then find a space, any space and get as comfy as you can. Sometimes it helps to close your eyes.
Take a deep breath in and release. Now
5: name five things you can hear
4: name 4 things you can see
3: name 3 things you can feel
2:name 2 things you can smell
1: Take a deep breath in and release.
Try not to rush this. If you find that the calmness has not come, start again and this time really try to describe the sensation and extend the answer. For example: Name 3 things you can feel? One response might be ‘my clothes’. So, what does they feel like, what are the textures like? Are they uncomfortable, itchy, soft, warm. Are there zips, draw strings, buttons? And how do they feel?
You can mix it up a bit. Next time try 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel etc…there is no set rule as long as you start at 5 and finish with 1 big breath.
Remember, we can’t plan for every event, every situation, every outcome. All we can do is try and accept that things may change at any given point. And when that happens, and it becomes overwhelming: 54321. Then feeling more grounded, calmer and recharged, rethink, refocus and go with the flow.
Hopefully this will help you get through those hard, stressful times.