3-3-3 Anxiety Rule: What is it and Does it help?

Anxiety coping strategies can help people with their emotional and psychological distress caused by anxiety (Image via Pexels/Karolina Grabowski)
Anxiety coping strategies can help people with their emotional and psychological distress caused by anxiety (Image via Pexels/Karolina Grabowski)

Anxiety refers to the feelings of fear, worry, and apprehension that people experience and that can have an impact on their physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being. Everyone feels some form of anxiety in their lives, but when they experience it over long periods of time without any relief, it is a sign of an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorder in the United States, with nearly 40 million adults suffering from them. For those suffering from anxiety, there are effective coping strategies available that work in both short-term and long-term scenarios.


What is the 3-3-3 anxiety rule?

The 3-3-3 rule is an anxiety coping strategy based on grounding principles. Grounding strategies focus on helping people pull away from traumatic memories and difficult emotions. It focuses on helping individuals who are anxious or facing feelings of anxiety pull their thoughts away from internal chaos and repetition to the present moment. The 3-3-3 rule further facilitates the redirection of a person's thoughts and grounds them in the present moment. This is done by combining the senses of touch, sound, and sight.

The rule is practiced by starting with the first step, which involves pausing to look around and paying attention to three objects. After spotting three separate objects, the 3-3-3 rule necessitates the individual to describe three things about each object.

The next step involves the individual scanning their environment for three separate sounds. The individual then has to repeat the process by paying attention to the cadence, pitch, and rhythm of the sounds that they have observed.

The last step for individuals using the 3-3-3 rule is to engage their sense of touch by choosing three body parts that move. This includes actions like wiggling your toes, stretching your neck, tapping your fingers, and moving your limbs, which engage the tactile sense.

The 3-3-3 rule is highly effective as an anxiety coping strategy as it shifts the mind's focus from chaotic internal dialog to real-life external stimuli.


Focusing on external stimuli allows individuals to deliberately shift their thoughts to the external world, which brings about a new perspective. This new perspective puts an end to the negative thoughts that cause anxiety.

The 3-3-3 rule is similar to the 5-4-3-2-1 technique, which is another effective coping strategy for anxiety. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is also based on the principles of grounding. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique involves the individual

  • Focusing on 5 things that they can see around them like their hands or the sky
  • Focusing on 4 things that they can physically feel like a person's arm and a ball
  • Focusing on 3 things that they can hear like laughter or the blowing wind
  • Focusing on 2 things that they can smell like coffee and perfume
  • Focusing on something that they can taste like a chewing gum

Coping strategies for anxiety

While the 3-3-3 rule is great for helping people deal with their feelings of anxiety, there are many other effective coping strategies like self-care, distraction, and breathing exercises.

1) Physical exercise and diet

The many mental and physical benefits of sticking to a regimen of exercise and regular movement have been highlighted. Regular exercise has numerous psychological advantages, but one of the most notable is how it lowers anxiety and improves how people handle anxiety flares.

The consumption of certain foods and drinks that are high in saturated fats, added sugar, and caffeine has been proven to increase anxiety. However, according to research, a diet consisting of regular consumption of fruits, vegetables, high-fiber foods, and healthy fats has been proven to improve a person's mental health.


2) Taking mind off of the situation

According to research, those experiencing anxiety can divert their attention to something else that will benefit them through distractions. There are many different things a person can do in order to take their mind off stressful situations, such as reading a book, meditating, working out, and cleaning around the house.


3) Practicing gratitude

Another coping strategy to deal with anxiety is by focusing on what is under a person's control and ignoring things outside of their control. The unknown can cause a significant amount of anxiety, so focusing on things that can be controlled allows people to feel more in control of their situation.


Practicing gratitude allows people to shift their focus to things that are under their control, and gratitude can be practiced in many ways.

4) Mindfulness

According to research, mindfulness has been shown to help people process feelings of anxiety as it allows people to think about things that are bothering them and the things that make them nervous. Mindfulness can be practiced in a variety of ways, including meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing.

The 3-3-3 rule is only just one of the coping strategies available for people to combat anxiety and help deal with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

Steve George Verghese is a trained psychologist with an MSc in Counseling Psychology from the Indian Institute of Psychology and Research.

Poll : Do you use anxiety coping strategies?



23 votes

Edited by Babylona Bora
Be the first one to comment