Counting and Naming

I know I’ve mentioned counting and naming before, but I think it bears repeating because counting and naming can be really helpful when it comes to coping with anxiety.

There are few things that can be done anywhere, anytime, in any situation the way counting and naming can be. Breathing, is another anywhere-anytime tool, but sometimes breathing and utilizing the breath can be very hard when anxiety levels get high.

Counting and naming though…. Anywhere. Anytime. Any situation.

On a bus:
– the number of people on the bus?
– the number of people on their cellphones?
– how many people are wearing a jacket?
– how many people are wearing blue jeans?
– how many people are wearing running shoes?
– describe what the people are wearing?
– what colour are their shirts? what colour are their shoes? what colour are their jackets?
– how many people have dark hair? how many people have light hair? how many people have long hair? how many people have curly hair?

If the people are too distracting, count and name what is outside the bus:
– how many cars are there? what colour are they? how many 4-doors? how many minivans? how many red cars? how many blue cars?
– are you passing buildings? how many? what kind of buildings? describe them. are they tall buildings? are they houses? describe the houses. count them.

Counting and naming. Counting and naming. Counting and naming.

In a store:
– what kind of store are you in? name it.
– what are on the shelves? count them. name them. whatever they are – cereal, canned goods, pastas, pop, water, fruit, sauces, pickles – count them all. name them all.
– how many people are shopping right now? what are they wearing? what are they doing? count them. name them.

On the street:
– are you walking north or south, east or west, or “up” or “down”? name it.
– is it cloudy or sunny? late or early? cold or hot?
– are you passing houses? how many? what colour are the houses? how many of them are brick houses or are painted white?
– are you passing trees? how many? what kind of tree? is the trunk dark or light? are the leaves big or small?
– are you passing buildings? how many? how tall are they? do they have a lot of windows? do they have signs? what kind of signs?

Counting and naming. Counting and naming. Counting and naming.

On an elevator:
– how many floors are there in the building? what colour are the buttons on the elevator? what colour is the walls? how many seconds are there between each floor?
– is someone on the elevator with you? what are they wearing? how tall are they? what are they doing?

In a living room:
– how many pieces of furniture are in the room?
– is there a coffee table? what colour is it? is it round or square? wood or glass? tall or short? does the coffee table have anything on top of it? name them too. describe them too.
– is there a couch? what colour is it? is it made of fabric or leather? is it dark or light? how many people does it seat? how many cushions does it have?
– what other furniture is in the room? name them. describe them.

In a bedroom:
– how many pieces of furniture are in the bedroom? what kind of furniture? describe them.
– what else is in the room? are there clothes? what kind? how many?
– are there books or collectibles? what kind? describe them? count them?

In an office:
– how many chairs are on the room? what kind of chairs? are the chairs filled with people? how many? what are they doing? what are they wearing?
– are there any tables in the room? what kind of tables? what do they look like? how many are there?
– are there any desks in the office? how many? are there people sitting at the desks? how many? what is on the desks? describe them. count them.

Counting and naming. Counting and naming. Counting and naming.

Even your thoughts can be counted and named:
– how many thoughts are you having? what kind of thoughts? are they mean thoughts or kind thoughts? how many? what are your thoughts telling you? describe them. just the facts though. are they dark or light thoughts?
Just be careful not to get too sucked into your thoughts or describing them because it can backfire on you and cause anxiety to spike and feelings to worsen. So if you count them or name them just stick to the facts, and do NOT “respond” to or engage with them. Just name the thoughts and move on.

I think maybe as you’re driving a car would be the one place you need to pay more attention to what you’re doing than counting or naming. But if it is safe to do so, then start counting and naming.

If you’re unable to count or name what is around you, then count numbers, by 2s, by 5s, by 10s. Multiply numbers. Subtract numbers. Add numbers.

Name countries from A-Z. Fruits from A-Z. Vegetables from A-Z. Boys names from A-Z. Girls names from A-Z. Rock bands from A-Z. Movies from A-Z. Songs from A-Z. Colours from A-Z. Cities from A-Z. Name all your teachers from kindergarten up. Name all the provinces, territories or states of your country. Actors from A-Z, first and last name.

Counting and naming may feel silly, but it really can help. Counting and naming takes you out of your head and into the present moment of what is before you and around you. It allows your mind to focus on something else besides the anxiety and impending doom.

It gives the anxiety sensations and feelings time to subside. It may not clear the anxiety altogether, but it can help to reduce the anxiety enough so that you don’t feel like you’re dying. It allows for some space to breathe. And maybe employ other tools or tips.

Try it right now, wherever you are. Say it out loud or in your head. Start counting and naming the stuff around you. Anything. Describe whatever you see. Just the facts. Furniture? People? Cars? Buildings? What? What do you see? Count it. Name it. Name 20 singers. Name 20 companies.

Counting and naming has helped me immensely. One day I was coming home from the library, my anxiety was too high to take a bus, so I started walking. But my anxiety was still too high, and I was on the edge of a panic attack. And I still needed to get home. As tempting as it was to just curl up on the sidewalk and stay there, I needed to get home.

So I just started naming everything I was doing and seeing. I was walking north on the street, my feet were touching the sidewalk every two seconds, I passed about thirty trees and twenty houses. Some trees had dark-coloured trunks and big leaves. Some tress had kind of grey-coloured trunks with dark brown spots and small leaves. It was sunny with a few clouds, no wind. For the houses, some were brick and some had white siding. I counted the cars that passed me. I counted the electric poles I passed and how tall they were. And which ones had signs on them and what the signs were. And before I knew it, I was home. My anxiety was kept at bay long enough for me to get home.

So as weird as it may sound to do, and maybe as too simple, it does help. Counting and naming. Counting and naming. Counting and naming.

Even if it’s just to get you home.

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