As we struggle to seek a break in the hustling and bustling world filled with anxiety, we seem like escapists. Not just in others’ eyes but in ourselves’ too. Unfortunately, though we urgently need a solution to calm down and actively face what we need to face. There are, in fact, four unusual anxiety hacks that are free, and can possibly be more helpful than some of the classic breathing techniques that we all know. If that sounds too good to be true, I suggest you read on anyway. You might be surprised.


Five! Four! Three! Two! One!  NOW, are you ready to enter the world of reality?

Well, before that, let’s just wait a moment because there seems to be a lot of resistance here. While the “five, four, three, two, one” countdown may sound super scary and stressful, it also refers to the grounding technique which is a method of de-stressing.

“The ‘five, four, three, two, one’ grounding technique. My therapist just ‘tasked’ me with this. Name five thing you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch/feel, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste. You can do any order and number.” — Rachel C.

The countdown:

5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Maybe it is a bird, maybe it is pencil, maybe it is a spot on the ceiling, however big or small, state 5 things you see.

4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, hands, ground, grass, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel.

3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your tummy rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list.

2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment, if you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.

1. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste.These five steps are a way to ground yourself in the NOW, the current moment, the present. Take you out of your head and help stop your flooded thoughts.

Musical Thoughts

Have you ever witnessed someone singing out negative thoughts and unreasonable worries to themselves? Probably not, and if you have it might have seemed dumb at that moment. It is, however, a smart strategy to use.

It’s actually a technique from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and is used to bring about defusion--distancing from and letting go of unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, memories and other cognitions.  Basically, that’s a mental state where we recognize that our thoughts are not the literal truth and we don’t have to take them seriously.
You could, for example, sing out negative thoughts to the tune of, say, “Happy Birthday”. This helps defuse your thoughts. It may also be helpful if you transfer your versions of songs into the voice of a cartoon character, movie character, or sports commentator. If this can really help us to feel less anxious, being a little silly is acceptable.

Cold Water Shock

Hydrotherapy, the application of water to the body surface to help it heal and feel better, is a simple at home remedy which can provide substantial benefit with minimal effort.

When anxiety gets really out of hand--take an “ice cube” challenge:

Take an ice cube and rub it on your wrist or hand. If someone asks you what you are doing, you can say you’ve hurt yourself (which is true, you hurt yourself with your negative thoughts).When emotions are really out of control, use lots of ice. Don’t do this one in public, but it works. Fill a bowl of water and ice. Put your face in the bowl. This will calm you down — come up when you need to breathe, but repeat until you feel better. For those who wear mascara, be sure to wash your face after this one!

Use ice cubes. This technique can help you divert your attention away from a panic attack, especially if you’re in the throes of a particularly intense attack. Take out an ice cube and hold it to your hand for as long as you can (you can put the cube in a paper towel). Then, place the ice cube on your other hand. This focuses your mind on the discomfort, de-escalating your symptoms.

From a scientific point of view, applying water of different temperatures to our skin can change our physiology and mood. Water and sudden temperature changes can have a truly powerful effect on us.


Hakalau is an ancient Hawaiian practice of expanding one’s consciousness by seeing the world in a new way. Hakalau means “to stare at as in meditation and to allow to spread out.” Practicing Hakalau (instead of focusing on the spot or fixed target) one stares at the front view initially and then gradually allows the view to expand to peripheral view which focuses on the things around us. This technique feels simple at first, but it actually requires quite a bit of practice. You need good concentration to keep your mind empty during the process. Yet in a world where we get distracted constantly, this technique doesn't come easy to many people. It is, however, an interesting antidote to overwhelming feelings and intrusive thoughts.

Those four unusual anxiety hacks are not overnight magic. The musical thoughts technique and the Hakalau may seem simple but they do require some practice and patience. The Cold Water Shock, on the other hand, can be used at any time. To find out which technique works best for you, there's only one way to find out. You need to give each of them a try. I encourage you to do that because you might be surprised.