News from Illinois CancerCare

5-4-3-2-1 Technique for Panic Attacks

When we are anxious or in the midst of a panic attack, our mind is everywhere but in the present moment. Seth Errion, MA, LPC NCC, our Oncology Counselor, shares the coping technique he shares with clients – patients, caregivers, family members, etc. The hope is to help ground yourself back to the now and hopefully reduce those ruminating thoughts.

“Just like strengthening a muscle, it takes practice to help train your brain to the present. If you don’t get through the entire coping skill – don’t give up! Keep practicing to help strengthen your brain.”

5-4-3-2-1 TECHNIQUE

  • What to do:
    • 5. Start by identifying at least five things you can see
      • View them and describe their visual qualities (e.g., color, shape, shine, etc.)
    • 4. Followed by at least four things you can touch
      • Touch them and describe their physical qualities (e.g., texture, temperature, etc.)
    • 3. Next is at least three things you can hear
      • Listen closely for different sounds around you and describe them (e.g., loudness, type of sound, what is making the sound, etc.)
    • 2. Two things you can smell
      • Smell the air around you and describe what you smell (e.g., good or bad, what it smells like, etc.)
    • 1. Finally, identify at least one thing you can taste
      • Did you just smell something so strong that you can taste it? Still taste your morning coffee?  Chewing gum?  Focus in on your sense of taste and describe what you notice (e.g., flavors).


Seth Errion, MA, LPC, NCC, has seen firsthand how cancer impacts not only a survivor, but their family as well. Cancer and cancer treatment has numerous impacts and he hopes to help people feel more comfortable having an open conversation about it. Read more about Seth’s background here.