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A technique to refocus thoughts

As a part of the statewide Show-Me Hope Crisis Counseling Program, Places for People offers free, confidential counseling services to anyone affected by COVID-19.

“We usually think of crisis counseling and crisis counselors as folks that are going to come in after a tornado or after a hurricane,” said Sarah Sunseri, one of Places for People’s Show-Me Hope Crisis Counselors. Sunseri and her colleagues play a similar role, helping to connect individuals with community resources, providing emotional support, and simply listening.

“Often they’re in crisis, they, they need someone to be listening to them,” Sunseri said. “They need someone to reassure them that they’re not alone, that it makes sense that they’re overwhelmed.”

The crisis counselors can help provide guidance of where to focus, and how to prioritize next steps.

They can also provide approaches to try when a feeling of stress or anxiety arises.

One of Sarah’s favorite techniques to refocus thoughts is called the “5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique.” This practice engages all five senses and can be practiced anywhere.

Sunseri recommends being in a comfortable place and starting with a couple of deep breaths. Then you begin engaging your senses and counting down from 5 to 1. For instance:

  • 5Sight – Think about five things you see around you.
  • 4Touch – Think about four things you feel.
  • 3Sound – Think about three things you hear.
  • 2Smell – Think about two things you can smell.
  • 1Taste – Think about one thing you can taste.

Depending on the situation, you can change the order of the senses used.

“If your mind wanders off and starts thinking about those thoughts that you that were just not helpful, and kind of just going, going going, you just come right back to it,” Sunseri said.

A friend of Sunseri introduced her to this technique, and at first she was skeptical.

“I thought to myself, I’m not gonna do that when I’m really upset. There is no way I’m not going to do breathing exercises. I’m not going to do this technique. I’m just upset. And you know what, I actually was able to use it and I noticed that it worked.”

If you need support in this challenging time, we’re here to listen. We’re here to listen. Call 314-615-9105, ext. 397, and a Show-Me Hope crisis counselor will return your call within 24 hours.

You can learn more about the Places for People Show-Me Hope program here, or you can visit the state Show-Me Hope page.