What Is the 3 3 3 Rule for Anxiety? How to Do It and Why It Works

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Nobody is immune from the effects of modern life and all the anxieties and stress accompanying it.

Anxiety disorders are a common mental health issue that millions of people face every day.

Approximately 40% of Americans, at some point in their life, will deal with some symptoms of anxiety.

Anxiety varies from person to person, but there are a few strategies you can use to lessen its effects on your daily life.

3 3 3 rule for anxiety is a grounding technique

What Is It 3 3 3 Rule for Anxiety?

The 3 3 3 rule is a quick grounding exercise in which we draw our attention away from our anxieties by using our sense of sight, sense of sound, and sense of touch.

Like a mindfulness technique, the 3 3 3 rule is designed to help combat anxiety and bring you back to the present moment when your levels of stress are becoming uncomfortable.

Grounding exercises like these are valuable tools to have in your back pocket for when you are in a stressful situation, or your mental health is beginning to suffer.

However, the 3-3-3 anxiety rule is a reactionary technique and shouldn’t be used as a replacement for a long-term coping strategy for severe anxiety disorders.

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How to Do It

The 3-3-3 anxiety rule is a simple technique that can be done anywhere at any time to bring about a sense of calm.

Three Things, Three Times

Step One

Three Things That You Can See.

Find and focus on three things that you can see. Don’t look around for anything in particular; just pick three things in your direct vision that you can focus on. Analyze the intricacies of the objects taking note of the shape, color, and shade. Don’t judge the object; try to view it objectively.

Step Two

Three Things you Can Hear.

Find three things in your vicinity that you can hear. Again, don’t look for anything in particular. Instead, focus on background noise and try to decipher what you’re hearing. Don’t try to guess, but listen and tune into the sounds around you.

Pay close attention to the volume and intensity of the sounds and try to isolate them individually in your mind.

Step 3

Three Things You Can Feel.

Pick three things that you can touch: your clothes, desk, chair, or whatever else you’re sitting on, then focus on the texture and feel of them in your hands. Slowly move your hands to one of the three objects, then back to another. Focus on how each one feels.

Next, focus on what you’re feeling in your body. Is there any tension? Are you holding any stress? Is there a particular muscle that’s tense? Focus intently on these sensations and try to let them go.

Bonus Step

Three Deep Breaths.

Deep breathing can aid in managing anxiety and helps in releasing the tension that builds up during prolonged periods of anxious thoughts.

Give yourself three deep breaths from your diaphragm.

Breathe in through your nose for three seconds, hold for three seconds, and then breath out through your nose for three seconds.

a woman practices deep breathing

When to Use the 333 Rule

Use the 333 rules any time you feel the onset of anxious feelings. This could be anything from occasional worries about the future to a generalized anxiety disorder or full-blown panic attack. 

 Follow these steps to get yourself back on track:

1. Observe the 3 3 3 rule for anxiety; 

2. Remind yourself that anxious feelings are temporary and shouldn’t be numbed or ignored; 

3. Ritualize how you’ll respond to future anxiety-provoking situations to help combat your anxiety’s effects and return you to the present moment.

Think of it as a reset button for your emotions. It doesn’t eliminate the feeling completely, but it does give you a little bit of space from it. 

The 333 rule is particularly useful for detaching yourself from overwhelming situations, like public speaking or performing in front of people, so that you can stay calm, in control, and focused on the task at hand rather than worrying about what could go wrong. 

Why It Works

The way these technique works is very similar to other grounding methods.

Anxiety is routed in the future, focusing on things that are yet to happen and don’t yet exist. The opposite is true for sadness and depression, where we ruminate on the past. We become so lost in these emotions that it gets hard to enjoy the things we’re doing right now.

The 3-3-3 anxiety rule is a way to get you focused back on the present moment. Focusing on your senses and observing the world around you stops your mind from projecting itself out into the future and its worries or into the past towards its regrets.

Anxiety is a whole lot more than just feeling stressed or worried. It can stop us from living life to the fullest.

By grounding yourself in the present moment, you are giving yourself space from the emotional weight of your thoughts.

What Is the 3 3 3 Rule for Anxiety

Additional Grounding Techniques


Dealing with anxious thoughts is not something that can be done overnight. However, small changes in your routine can make a big difference.

For example, take time to exercise. Exercise doesn’t have to be a grueling weight lifting routine, or it doesn’t have to mean running on a treadmill in a gym for over an hour, either.

Instead, focus on exercising your body as you’re going about your daily life. Running a few kilometers around the neighborhood or even just taking the stairs more often can be a surprisingly effective way to relieve anxiety and improve your physical health.


As with exercise, meditation doesn’t have to be something time-consuming and immense.

In fact, I’ve found that many of the best meditation techniques are the simplest.

On MindEasy, we have a stress relief meditation course that will teach you some simple techniques to help combat anxiety.

This includes;
Breathing techniques
Emotional grounding
Progressive muscle relaxation
and much more

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For people who want a physical activity that can help with anxiety, yoga can be a great way to relax.

Yoga isn’t always bending over backward on your mat in the middle of a crowded room at a studio. Instead, focus on movements like the downward dog in the comfort of your own home whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

Breathing Exercises

Pranayama breathing exercises such as 4-7-8 breathing can be done anywhere and anytime.

Research suggests that sitting still and focusing on your breathing can have powerful effects on your brain by regulating the rate at which you breathe, thus alleviating stress and anxiety.

Yoga Nidra

Yoga Nidra is a powerful guided meditation technique that involves deep relaxation, stilling the mind, and entering into a state of deep, restful sleep.

Guided imagery is a great way to relax. It involves focusing on a specific thought or emotion that promotes relaxation each day to help you relieve anxiety.

Griff Williams

MindEasy founder & meditation teacher

Griff Williams is an accredited meditation teacher and founder of MindEasy. He spent 12 years working as a London firefighter before changing paths to pursue building MindEasy. He received his diploma in meditation teaching from The British School of Meditation.