How to Use The 333 Rule for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

How to Use The 333 Rule for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety can be extremely distressing, and panic attacks are downright terrifying. One of the best coping techniques for stopping anxiety or panic attacks is to use the 333 Rule for anxiety. These instructions will help you to use the 333 Rule for anxiety: 

  1. Look around your environment and name 3 things that you can see.
  2. Focus on the sounds around you and name 3 things that you can hear.
  3. Bring your attention to your body and move 3 different body parts.

That’s it!

Now, it’s understandable if this seems a bit too simplistic.

Let’s dive a bit deeper and discuss how to use the 333 Rule for anxiety as effectively as possible. We’ll also explore the psychological principles behind why it works in the first place.

The 333 Rule for Anxiety Chart

How to Use The 333 Rule for Anxiety and Panic Attacks

To get the most out of this method, understand exactly how to implement each step.

Let’s break the 333 Rule down:


3 Things Seen

In the first step, we’re scanning our environment for things that we can see. We are simply observing, and taking a verbal or mental note of what we observe. This could be a bird flying nearby, a person walking in the distance, or a cloud shifting in the wind.


3 Things Heard

For the second step, we’re focusing on anything we can hear around us. You may close your eyes for this step if you prefer it. What can you hear around you? As I type this, I hear a car driving by, the fan in my laptop humming, and the dull drone of the AC.


3 Movements

Finally, we reel our attention in to our body. We’re going to focus on just one body part at a time, and begin to move it around. Rotating your ankles, rolling your shoulders, or squeezing your hands shut could all work.  Really try and picture each of these movements in your mind’s eye as you hone in on each.

Why Does the 333 Rule for Anxiety Work?

In the past, I used to suffer from anxiety and frequent panic attacks myself. When we’re feeling anxious, especially when we’re panicking, we often lose control of our ability to think logically. With our fight-or-flight response activated, we feel like we’re going crazy, and desperately look for a way to escape.

The 333 Rule for anxiety works as a grounding technique. In other words, it helps us “ground” ourselves in the present moment when our mind tries to race off and anticipate every possible negative future outcome.

The 333 Rule is one of many methods for coping with anxiety, including:

  • Journaling about our emotions
  • Talking through anxiety with a friend or loved one
  • Logically walking yourself through the problem
  • Finding humor in the situation
  • Breathwork exercises like 478 breathing
  • Practicing mindfulness meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Physical activity or exercise
  • Utilizing a focus object or mantra
  • Etc.

It could be argued that one of the reasons this method works so effectively is because it actually combines several of the other techniques. With a simple-to-remember name, the 333 Rule provides an easy way to recall and implement these relaxation techniques for anxiety when the going gets tough.

But what psychological principles does the 333 Rule actually work on to reduce anxiety?

I’m glad you asked!

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The Psychology Behind the 333 Rule of Anxiety

The 333 Rule for anxiety works on several levels.

The most notable feature of this method its function as a type of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation involves the active practice of drawing our focus back into the present moment whenever our thoughts start to wander.

For people who might otherwise never try conventional meditative practices, this method presents a practical alternative. When using this technique, it can feel more like a game than meditation – something some people might otherwise consider too boring or difficult to try. Studies show that mindfulness meditations such as this are an effective way to reduce or manage anxiety. 

A secondary feature of this method is the incorporation of a body scanning technique. Although a bit different than the traditional body scan, bringing our awareness to the controlled movement of individual body parts is another form of meditation. This can also be quite effective for helping to reduce anxiety.

Alternative Methods for Stopping Anxiety

While this method can be great for stopping anxiety and panic attacks, we could add some techniques to enhance the effects:

  • Learn about anxiety and panic attacks to better manage and reduce them.
  • Practice healthy habits like exercise and a good diet to reduce anxiety.
  • Consider using stress supplements for more severe or persistent anxiety.
  • Incorporate breathing techniques like 478 breathing to control the breath.
  • Use exposure therapy to help with taking fear and phobias head-on.

Anxiety can be daunting and exhausting.

By combining the 333 Rule for anxiety with some of the above methods, you can drastically decrease stress and nervousness in your life.

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About the Author

Years of personal experience with anxiety disorders and panic attacks have led me to devise some pretty creative ways to keep my anxiety in check. In the past, anxiety and panic attacks felt like something I'd have to live with forever. Nowadays, panic attacks are a distant memory for me, and I'm free to pursue passions like writing and traveling the world. Hopefully, the information on this website can help you achieve the same. I do all the writing here myself, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions!

Tyler Ellis

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