In this busy world, we often find ourselves rushing along mentally at breakneck speed.
I’m late for work! Ah there’s traffic. Did I eat this morning? I forgot my lunch! What’s that meeting about today? What do I need from the grocery store? What did my partner mean when they said that weird thing earlier…
Sound familiar? Many of us would love to find a way to slow down and quiet the mental noise. You may have heard of mindfulness, which is the practice of being fully present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, sensations, and surroundings without judgment. By staying present in the moment, we can let go of worries about the past or future, reducing stress. Mindfulness offers a way for us to calm down and get centered. However, it can feel close to impossible to incorporate mindfulness into the hustle and bustle of your daily life.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. It also enhances emotional regulation and promotes overall well-being. By developing mindfulness skills, we can better manage stress and cultivate resilience to cope with life's challenges.
But many people feel that they don’t have time for mindfulness. They imagine hours of meditation in a totally distraction-free environment, or savoring each bite of food by chewing it 100 times. Who has time for that?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a prominent mindfulness researcher, came to the rescue of the modern mindfulness-seeker by developing a relatively simple skill you can practice anywhere without a formal meditation practice. Kabat-Zinn named his technique S.T.O.P., making it just as easy to remember as it is to implement.
The acronym stands for:
T: Take a breath
The S.T.O.P. method is a simple yet powerful mindfulness practice to help us pause and respond thoughtfully in stressful situations. The four steps of the S.T.O.P. method are designed to bring us into the present moment, interrupt automatic reactions, and create space for mindful awareness - and it’s possible to do it in less than a minute.
Ready to S.T.O.P.? Here’s how you can implement this beneficial practice:
Step 1: Stop.
Disengage autopilot and stop what you are doing.
Step 2: Take a breath
Shift your focus to your breath, feeling the sensations as you inhale and exhale. This will center you in the present moment.
Step 3: Observe
Observe your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment.
Step 4: Proceed
Once you’re ready, proceed with what you were doing. You can continue as you were, or you can incorporate the information you gained by observing. You may choose to change your course of action if you’ve realized that something isn’t going well for you.
The S.T.O.P. method helps regulate emotions, preventing impulsive reactions driven by stress or anxiety. It interrupts automatic stress responses, helping to make you aware of what is going on with your mind and body so that you can make more informed decisions. Regular practice of even this small bit of mindfulness will enhance your focus and concentration, allowing you to be more present in daily activities. It will also foster self-awareness, leading to a more mindful and purposeful way of living.
It can be hard to immediately start using the S.T.O.P. method in times of stress. Instead, start small by incorporating it during calm during daily activities, such as eating, walking, or brushing your teeth. Set aside a few minutes each day to check in with yourself using the S.T.O.P. method. You can even set an alarm if that helps you remember. Once you have mastered the technique in calm settings, it will be easier to turn to it in times of stress!
The S.T.O.P. method makes mindfulness more accessible to those of us with busy lives. By incorporating this small practice into your daily life, you can develop greater self-awareness, improved emotional regulation, and a sense of calm amidst life's challenges.
Mindfulness is a valuable tool for managing stress and promoting mental well-being. You may find that after experiencing the positive effects of the S.T.O.P. method, you wish to incorporate more mindful practices into your life. At Medens Health, we have many therapists on staff who use mindfulness-based techniques to help clients feel more calm, more centered, and less stressed. If you’re interested in mindfulness-based therapy in California or Nevada, reach out to us by phone or text at (833) 624-5400, send us a message using our online contact form, or get started here.
The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Reliance on any information provided in this blog is solely at your own risk. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical or mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who is qualified to give you safe, professional, and ethical advice regarding your mental health.
If you or someone you are responsible for is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should call 9-1-1 and/or take them to the nearest emergency room.