The 333 Rule is a grounding technique that helps calm symptoms of anxiety and manage panic attacks. Recognizing sights, sounds, and textures can ground you in the present moment and pinpoint what is causing your stress. The 333 Rule can be practiced anywhere and is easy to remember when you need it most.
What Is the 333 Rule for Anxiety?
The 333 Rule, sometimes referred to as the “Rule of Three,” is a grounding technique that directs people to identify three objects they can see, hear, and touch. This works to shift someone’s perspective back to their physical surroundings. It can be used as a practical way to calm anxiety. The 333 anxiety Rule takes you out of your head by using your senses as a way to reconnect with your body in the midst of negative anxiety symptoms including intrusive thoughts and panic attacks.
How to Use the 333 Rule for Anxiety
The 333 Rule asks that you find three examples of what you can see, hear, and touch within your current environment. While this method is short and simple, you should really take your time when focusing on each of the items you identify. This technique is not meant to be rushed. Start by using breathing techniques to feel more relaxed. You can utilize the 333 Rule any time you start to feel anxious.
To use the 333 Rule for anxiety, do the following:
Step 1: Focus on 3 Things You Can See
Focusing on things that you can see helps you become visually aware of your surroundings. You can notice big objects such as a tree or a chair, or you can look for smaller, more discreet objects such as a pencil or a penny. The idea isn’t necessarily to have objects in mind that you want to see, but rather to focus on the world around you. This helps you deal with your anxiety by removing you from the mental chatter causing you stress.
Step 2: Focus on 3 Things You Can Hear
Pinpointing sounds is another great way to help you deal with anxiety. Diverting your attention to your environment can help you transition from a state of inward thinking to one in which you’re cognizant of your surroundings instead. However, depending on your location, you may have a hard time isolating sounds. Some things to listen for include a clock ticking, clacking of keys on a keyboard, or someone sniffling. If you are somewhere outdoors, you may notice leaves rustling in the wind, cars passing by, or dogs barking.
Step 3: Focus on 3 Things You Can Touch/Move
Lastly, find three things that you can touch or move. These can be within your reach or even parts of your body. Identifying tangible items is one of the fastest ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling anxious. Teaching yourself to focus on the physical environment helps you feel anchored and reminds you to be present.
Examples of Using the 333 Rule for Anxiety
The 333 Rule for Anxiety can be useful in a variety of situations, as it is quick and easy to remember. Additionally, there are no supplies or materials required for you to practice this exercise. You may find this technique useful when you’re driving, presenting, taking an exam, or in any situation where you are experiencing social anxiety.
The following are examples of the 333 Rule for Anxiety:
During a Panic Attack While Driving
Some people become very anxious when driving, especially if they are lost or in an unfamiliar place. In cases such as these, using the 333 Rule helps you better focus on the road ahead and calm your senses. This can be a crucial exercise to adopt, because it allows you to remain cognizant of your vehicle. However, if you are truly experiencing a panic or anxiety attack while driving, you should pull over to the nearest shoulder for safety. Continue to practice grounding techniques such as the 333 Rule until you feel calm again.
When Meeting New People
Those who suffer from social anxiety often feel overwhelmed when meeting new people. Using the 333 Rule helps you focus on outside forces separate from the conversation you are having or anticipating. You may want to use the 333 Rule in a practical way such as looking for a familiar face, the nearest bathroom, or the nearest exit. Touch items such as a napkin, drink, or small item in your pocket.
Giving a Presentation
Presentations, whether academic or work related, can feel overwhelming, no matter how many times you practice. Anxiety has a way of convincing you that you will inevitably mess something up. Use the 333 Rule to feel grounded before giving your presentation. Take your time to notice where the clock is and observe the layout of the room. Use touch to hold your notes or remote. Notice the sound of your heartbeat and focus on slowing your breath.
Benefits of Using the 333 Rule
Learning and implementing strategies that do not rely on medication to treat anxiety can have many benefits. The 333 Rule is a great example of this, as it is a natural remedy for anxiety. Moreover, it is simple and easy to adopt. Other coping mechanisms require materials such as paper and pen, certain environmental factors, or are a bit more challenging to tap into. The 333 Rule takes the frustration out of self-coping mechanisms.
Is the 333 Rule for Anxiety Effective?
There are many experts who have openly expressed support for the 333 Rule exercise. Writer Jaime Miller highlights the benefits of the 333 Rule when managing overwhelming symptoms. Miller provides examples in history, spirituality, and strategy that utilize the number three. She explains, “if you’re anything like me, when your sense of sight, sound, and touch join together, it may begin to feel like a symphony.”1
In addition, Panic and Anxiety Community Support further articulates this by noting the simple and effective functionality of this exercise.2
When to Get Professional Help for Anxiety
While the 333 Rule may help you ease and manage your anxiety, you may still find yourself in need of professional help. Know that there are plenty of treatment methods and medications for anxiety. Anxiety, when left untreated, can become debilitating and interfere with daily functioning. There are varying degrees of anxiety, all with different triggers and symptoms
Medication may be necessary when the symptoms you experience feel uncontrollable and unmanageable. Talk with your primary care physician or find a psychiatrist if you feel that medication will be a beneficial addition to your treatment plan. Additionally, you can find a therapist using a therapist directory. Exploring the options for anxiety therapy can help you understand the specific type of anxiety that you are experiencing, the best course of action for your situation, and provide a safe place to reflect. Be patient when finding a professional with whom you can see yourself building a therapeutic relationship with.
While it may not be a cure-all for anxiety, the 333 Rule is a great way to calm anxious thoughts. This exercise does not require any materials, only your observations. You may even consider having a quick little reference sheet that reminds you of the steps.