Using Mindfulness to S.T.O.P Stressing
I'm so grateful that I have my mindfulness practice to draw on at a time like now. Like most people, recent world events have at times caused me to feel frightened, confused, and anxious - sometimes all at once. With mindfulness, I've been able to keep my emotions in check so that I have a (mostly) steady and calm mind - which is especially helpful at this time.
The STOP technique is a popular mindfulness practice that helps create a little space between ourselves and our worried thoughts. With this space, we’re more likely to gain perspective, regulate our response to stress and pressure, and take wise action; including self-care if that is what's required in the moment.
Here's how it works:
1. S- Stop what you're doing, and recognise what is happening in your mind and body (eg. I am feeling anxious/ I'm obsessively worrying/ my thoughts are racing).
2. T- Take a moment to take a few slow, mindful breaths to help calm down and keep you anchored to the present moment.
3. O - Observe how your body feels with a sense of curiosity, and without judging what you're experiencing. What physical sensations come with these emotions? Can you soften any places of tension you may be unconsciously creating? Research shows that just naming our emotions can have a calming effect, so see if you can name and break up the big emotion (eg.fear) into smaller emotions (e.g. anger, confusion, sadness).
4. P- Proceed with wise action. Ask yourself what would be most helpful in this moment. Maybe you need to make a to-do list to help order what's been preoccupying your mind, do that thing you have been putting off, make a cup of tea, or call a friend.
Mindfulness has taught me that strong emotions like fear and anxiety are not permanent, and can move through us like a wave if we don't fight against it. So now when I feel myself getting worked-up I STOP - I recognise what's happening, breathe, allow myself to feel it, and proceed with wise action. I don't get down on myself for panicking or feeling frightened like I used to. Instead, I show myself some compassion for what I'm experiencing, and give myself permission to change course.