About the Book:
Psychologist David Berndt, Ph.D., in Overcoming Anxiety, outlines several self-help methods for relief from anxiety and worry. In clear language and a conversational style, Dr. Berndt talks intimately with the reader like he would in a therapy session, and he shares what he learned from his peers and clients about how to make techniques for anxiety management more effective and helpful.
You will learn:
- A Self-hypnosis grounding technique in the Ericksonian tradition.
- Box Breathing, Seven Eleven and similar breathing techniques for anxiety relief.
- How to stop or interrupt toxic thoughts that keep you locked in anxiety.
- How to harness and utilize your worries, so they work for you.
- Relief from anxiety through desensitization and exposure therapy.
Designed to be used alone as self-help or in conjunction with professional treatment Dr. Berndt draws upon his experience as a clinician and academic researcher to give accessible help to the reader who wants to understand and manage their anxiety.
About the Author:
David J. Berndt, Ph.D. was an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of
Chicago where he published or presented over 80 papers and articles before establishing a private Practice. Dr Berndt currently lives in Charleston, S.C. where he also teaches in an adjunct capacity at the College of Charleston. He is best known for his psychological tests The Multiscore Depression Inventory, and the Multiscore Depression Inventory for Children, both from Western Psychological Services. He also contributes to several psychology websites including www.psychologyknowledge.com.
Praise for Dr. Berndt’s work:
About the Multiscore Depression Inventory:
“A textbook example of how to create a psychological test.”
-Oscar Burrows Mental Measurement Yearbook
About Overcoming Anxiety
“Dr. Berndt is a creative and forward-thinking psychologist who has contributed to advancing psychology both with his research and clinical practice. He has helped countless patients with their depression and anxiety, and his conversational and accessible style of writing makes Overcoming Anxiety a book you would want for your top shelf.
- Charles Kaiser, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the College of Charleston
How to Use the 54321 Technique-The Basics
Excerpt from Overcoming Anxiety by David Berndt, PhD
In Overcoming Anxiety I introduced a grounding technique for anxiety management and explained why and how it is best used, and what components I found most useful. In this brief excerpt from the book I present the 54321 technique itself, without much background. To use it most effectively you might want to read the book, but here is the technique:
I am now going to introduce how the basic 54321 Technique is used. Later I will discuss how you can customize and enhance it, thereby making it all the more compelling. The basic version that I am about to show you is simple, and it can be used by anyone. That method works just fine, and this simple approach is the easiest way to teach it, and for you to learn to use it, when you initially practice the technique.
Because we all are interested in our senses, you can pick three of your favorite senses to help distract you from the anxiety. Each time you can use a set of three other senses if you like. You are going to be very mindful of these three senses, appreciating them as you note the sensations you experience in the here and now.
The first couple of times you try this, it should be a practice/training session. It is not so easy that it should be tried without at least a few rehearsals, to get out the kinks and begin to tweak it, to fit your style. You probably should be alone, and in a comfortable, relatively unhurried place and time. Don’t try this while driving. Ideally, you should be sitting up so you don’t fall asleep, but lying down is fine, if comfort dictates that. Once you get good at the grounding technique (like any skill, practice makes it easier and stronger) you can do the basic 54321 Technique in the midst of chaos. No one will even know, although, from the outside, you might seem a little distracted. But for now, just get comfortable, in a private place.
Pick any three of your senses, it doesn’t matter which ones. First I am going to demonstrate it, and then you can do it.
This basic method goes like this: I am going to pick three senses, in this version I will pick: seeing, hearing, and feeling. I will pay attention and Notice appreciatively and fully, for a long moment, five things that I see, then five things that I hear, and then five things that I feel. Next, I will notice four more things that I see, then four things that I hear, and four things that I feel. Continuing on, I notice three things I see, and so on. By the time I reach level one, I am usually so comfortable, and so absorbed, that what was bothersome has usually faded away. I am, instead, in a place where I am aware, focused, and grounded, with a calmer mind and a more relaxed body.
As I attend to the things that I notice in the here and now, one sense at a time, I will spend a few moments with each item, lingering or even savoring the sensation, before turning my attention to, and sensing, the next thing. If I can’t perceive anything right away, I just wait a few more seconds, as something will come to my attention. While waiting, my senses are getting even sharper and more focused, with greater absorption.
As a demonstration, I will type in an example now, and you can read along while I present it. (Note: if I were by myself, I would be just noticing these things and not typing, and if I were teaching it to you in person, I would be saying it aloud, rather than typing). If you were watching me demonstrate this, in a clinical session, you would see that I am in no rush, and because I have enjoyed this process so many times, I notice my relaxation building right away, even as I am starting.
“I am sitting at the computer in my office, and I see:
the computer screen,
and I see the wall behind it,
now I see the printer,
and the coffee cup,
and the rug (5 things).
the xerox machine (it makes a lot of noises),
and the chair moves, squeaking as I fidget,
the click of the mouse,
and a car driving by, outside.
I hear someone just shut a door in the hallway.
the temperature here, it is not too hot, and not too cold,
and I feel the chair beneath me.
I feel my socks on my feet,
and I am aware that my left leg itches.
I feel my mouth is dry.
Now four more things I see. (You could notice the same ones, if you prefer, but I find that I need to change it up, to make it more compelling).
the cream and coffee in the coffee cup,
and then the surface of the shoes that I am wearing.
I see the smudge that the desk made on the wall,
and I see the back of my own hands….
the air conditioning.
I hear my breathing, and notice that it has slowed...
I hear the hum of electricity in the fixtures.
I hear a bird singing outside.
my hair…. ;
I feel my belt.
I feel the air that I breathe in, in my nose, it is a different
temperature than the air I am breathing out.
I feel the absence of my wallet.
Three things now:
the weave of the carpet,
the remote control,
and the pattern of my socks….
and the noise of my tongue moving in my mouth,
someone talking several rooms over.
one shoe feels tighter than the other,
and my toenails, especially my little toe…
I feel the inside of my head.
and what I just typed.
A car pulling into the driveway;
my sigh just then...
my cheeks are relaxed,
and my eyes are dry.
I see the dusk starting to arrive out my window.
I hear myself swallow.
I feel my jaw; it’s not quite as tense as it was.”
If you lose track of the numbers, that is fine, it means it is already working. You do not have to make it all the way to level one. In fact, I rarely need to go further than three, because when I do it now, it kicks in quickly and builds. Certainly, by the time you get down to one thing that you see, hear, or feel, you will likely be more relaxed and grounded in your body; if you are open to the process, and not worried about getting it right, you can get really absorbed in the things to which you were paying attention.
When a distracting thought, sensation, or feeling comes, make note of it, appreciatively, but do not spend much time or effort with it, simply direct your awareness back to the task at hand.
Simple, right? Well, it is supposed to be. You can practice this a couple of times, in a quiet place, alone, and then, with a little more practice, you can get pretty good at it, and you will be able to do it with ease.
There are some key elements. You need three different categories of things to notice, so you can move in and out of them as you count down (this is how we get the fractionation boost discussed earlier in the self-hypnosis component). It is a whole lot easier to demonstrate this distinction (the need for three distinct categories) using three senses, which are clearly three different types of things. It can, however, be any three categories that are distinct and of compelling interest to you. Until you have it mastered, however, I recommend sticking to three of the five senses, one sense for each category. You can develop more advanced and interesting ways of doing 54321 later as you customize it.
The hardest part is remembering to use this technique. As I noted earlier, it is probably not a good idea to wait until you need it, before you try it out. Instead, practice it first, and get comfortable with it. Once you know the technique, and know that you can do it easily without effort (or worry about whether you are doing it right), then it can be something you will be able to remember to use, in a time of need. When anxiety runs amok, you will have the 54321 tool practiced and ready, and you can deploy it with ease, as one of many grounding techniques that will give some anxiety relief. In the book I give some anecdotes about more advanced uses.
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