One of the questions I get asked a lot from people who are new to mindfulness is around techniques they can use during stressful situations to help them calm down. They may be overwhelmed because of a high workload and tight deadlines, becoming anxious at the thought of a big presentation or dealing with a difficult conflict in the workplace.
Being more mindful starts with S.T.O.P.
These people don’t want the long-winded answer about how they should take up a formal meditation practice or even enrol in a mindfulness course – they just need something to help them now! Something to give them a little peace in an otherwise stressful day! I usually tell them ‘You just need to STOP!’.
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Using a short acronym like STOP makes it easier for us to remember, which means we are more likely to use it regularly. You can do this technique in a relative short time frame and you don’t need any specials tools to get you started. A lot of people that I have trained over the years love this technique and have had a lot of success implementing it, both at work and at home. It is so simple, yet so powerful.
S stands for Stop.
When you become aware that you are feeling stress or anxious about something that’s happening. Try and catch yourself in the act, even if you are mid sentence or in the middle of telling yourself how awful something is going to turn out. You can either say the word ‘STOP’ out loud or you can just say it to yourself. Stop worrying, stop being anxious, stop ruminating.
T stands for Take a few breaths.
Now that you have stopped give yourself an opportunity to take a few deep mindful breaths, really focusing on inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
O stands for Observe.
You will notice as you start to breathe deeply you immediately release some of that negative tension that your negative thoughts have already built up in your body. Become aware of that tension and negative energy and slowly release those too as you continue with your breath. Whether you have balled up your fists, clenched your jaw or are just holding on tightly to something – it’s time to let that go and breathe through it. Just observe your present experience including thoughts, feelings and emotions without judgement.
P stands for Proceed.
Allow yourself to choose the best possible way to proceed in this moment. Do you need to shake it off, make a cup of tea or just remember that this too shall pass so you don’t need to hold on so tightly.
To learn why you don’t need to be a monk to be mindful click here.
Just noticing that you are feeling stressed or anxious is the first step in becoming more mindful. The more regularly you use the STOP technique the better you will become at regulating your own emotions, feelings and thoughts. You will find after a while that just by saying the word STOP, you will become more aware, automatically release some of that negative energy and feel calmer.
Why don’t you STOP now and give it a try!