Present Safety and Four Elements Exercises

A guided walkthrough demonstrating the 'Present Safety' exercise and 'Four Elements' Exercise.

The 4 Elements exercise was developed by Elan Shapiro to create a sense of safety and stabilisation as step 1 of a comprehensive trauma processing procedure.

Download and print the worksheet below the video before you watch it.

Step 1:  Present Safety Exercise

We are going to work together on something that we call “Present Safety”.

Have a look at Step 1 Worksheet with a yellow box labelled “Present Safety”.

It provides you with some tools you can use to calm yourselves whenever you need to and it enables us to determine what kind of follow up would be most appropriate and helpful for you.

I’m going to show you how you can keep yourself calmer & more in control with a wristband [or sticker] reminder and what we call the‘4-Elements’ exercise. You can put the sticker on your cell phone.

Please put the band [or sticker] on your wrist – either right or left, it doesn’t matter which – and place the Step 1 Worksheet on the table in front of you.

Write today’s date below ‘Now-Here’ in the bottom right-hand corner.

At the top of the Worksheet there are 3 scales. The ones on the left are used to assess and record how much stress we’re feeling at specific moments.

We’ll use the ‘0’ to ‘10’ numbers scale where:

‘0’ corresponds to ‘No stress’

‘10’ corresponds to ‘As bad as you can imagine’

It’s a ‘negative’ scale: the higher the number the worse the situation.

The faces are a guide that you can use.

On the right there’s a scale to assess and record our feeling of safety at specific moments. You can imagine it as ‘glasses of water’ which you fill in.

This is a ‘positive’ scale: the higher the number – the more full the glass – the more safe you feel:

‘0’ – an empty glass – corresponds to ‘totally unsafe’

‘4’ – a full glass – corresponds to ‘completely safe’

Now, please look at your wristband [or sticker] and then notice how much stress, tension or disturbance you feel right now on a scale of ‘0’ (low stress) to ‘10’ (high stress).

Go to the yellow box of the step 1 Worksheet and write that number in the circle in the top left of that box where it says ‘Before [0….10]’


4 Elements Exercise (this can be used as a stand-alone exercise)

To calm and stabilize ourselves we’ll now do the ‘4-Elements’ exercise.

Starting with your feet we begin with the 1st Element, EARTH.

Place both feet on the ground, feel the floor/ground … and the chair supporting you… take a minute to ‘land’, to take ‘time out’, to be here, now…

Look around and notice 3 things you didn’t notice before:

Now, what do you hear?

What do you smell?

How is the temperature in the room?

What else?


And notice any people you are sharing this space with…….in the room… You are not alone……we are all connected.


You are here, now, in the present…and you are safe here, now.

“Now going up your body for the 2nd Element AIR.   Notice your breathing……… breathe in through your nose letting the air go all the way to your stomach as you count 4 seconds (1..2..3..4)….then gently hold for 2 seconds (1…2) and then breathe out for 4 seconds (1..2..3..4)….Let’s take a minute for about 6 deeper slower breaths like this……….as you come back to yourself… your centre”…….

“Continue up your body to the 3rd Element WATER.  Is your mouth dry or do you have  Saliva?…..When you are anxious or stressed your mouth often dries up but when you are making saliva it is a sign that you are relaxing…..take a minute or two to make more and more saliva……you can imagine the taste of a lemon…… make more and more saliva…… you do this you may also notice that you have more and more focus and control of your thoughts and body”…….

“Now with your feet on the ground, breathing more deeply and slowly; making more and more saliva we move to the 4th Element FIRE or LIGHT…..bring up an image or a PLACE or a situation that helps you to feel calmer and safer……..let’s call this your SAFE or CALM PLACE……in the yellow box draw and/or write something that reminds you of this safe or calm place, situation, or activity……a sketch or a symbol or words…..notice what you feel when you connect to that place and how you feel in your body?”…….

“Keep noticing how you feel in your body when you focus on your safe or calm place…….give it a name………and strengthen the connection with a long set of Butterfly Hugs as you say the name and focus on your safe place………………….       Look at your wristband (sticker) again and notice how much stress you feel now from zero (low stress) to 10 (high stress)……….and write it in the small circle in the box where is says ‘after 0 – 10)”…

If you practice the 4 Elements exercises about 6 – 10 times a day…..every time you notice your silicon wristband (or sticker) you can monitor your stress level from 0 – 10 and then try to reduce it at least by 1 or 2.  After a week or 2 you may be able to calm yourself more easily just by looking at and touching your wristband”.