The 3 -2 – 1 reset is a technique I learned from Dr Richard Nongard. I use it myself and I’ve shared it with many of my stressed and anxious clients, and they have found it really helpful.
When we find ourselves in a moment of panic
When we find ourselves in a moment of when our anxiety spikes, or we feel panicky, it helps greatly if we have a plan of action so that rather than simply letting the anxiety or panic amplify, we can put our action plan into operation. We can stop the anxiety or panic in its tracks.
Activate the 3 -2 – 1 reset
When you are feeling the onset of panic, you activate the 3 -2 – 1 reset. When you do you’ll find that your physical and mental experience changes. The new experience will interrupt and break the cycle of anxiety or panic so you can quickly return to acting normally.
It’s called the 3 – 2- 1 technique because there are three breaths, followed by two hands, and then one minute of silently paying attention to your breath.
Let’s practice it now
Begin by taking three long slow deep breaths.
Then place a hand on the opposite shoulder so that your arms are crossed across your body as if you were giving yourself a hug.
Now close your eyes and just pay attention to your breath and notice when you notice about the breath. And if any time your mind wanders from the breath simply bring it back to the breath. Continue to pay attention to the breath for one minute. What you’re practising here, is to no longer following your thoughts into the future (anticipation) or into the past (regret). You’re staying fully immersed in this present moment.
Practice is key
The next time you’re in anxiety arousing situation you need to be ready to use the 3-2-1 Reset so that’s why it pays dividends to practice the technique. I recommend you practice it each and every morning, and each night, that’s twice a day, for the next week.
And what you’re going to discover is that this practice pays off, because you will be able to take physical and emotional control over the anxiety producing moment.
It’s a simple strategy but there’s some real depth to it.
The three breaths with the eyes open help ground you in the present moment.
Crossing your arms across your body is one way of creating bilateral stimulation. Bilateral Stimulation is used to open the connections and pathways between our left and right brain hemispheres.
Bilateral Stimulation can be achieved using any motion where your arm crosses the midline of the body, such as drawing a large infinity sign in front of you; crossing and uncrossing of the arms and legs; passing your phone from one hand to the other across the centre line and moving your eyes from side to side.
Bilateral Stimulation produces four main effects:
- A relaxation effect including decreased physiological arousal.
- Increased attentional flexibility (meaning that your thoughts become less ‘stuck’ on whatever was bothering you).
- Distancing effect (meaning that the problem seems smaller and further away).
- Decreased worry.
In addition to these effects, the self-hug feels good and helps to trigger helpful neurotransmitters and hormones. It is a physical way of showing caring, and compassion, for ourselves. Research has found that touch is our primary means for spreading compassion to ourselves and others. In recent years, a wave of studies has documented some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
Bringing your attention to the breathe keeps your attention in the present moment meaning that you are no longer thinking about what’s going to happen next. You can only hold one thought in your mind at any moment and noticing what you notice about your breath blocks out any anxiety triggering thoughts.
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