The Stop Practice
Stress is an inevitable part of life. But stress itself is not the problem - it’s how we relate to it that counts.
The stress response (‘fight, flight, freeze’) is critical to our survival. In days gone by, it might have saved us from the mouth of a sabre-toothed tiger. These days, while certain threats have disappeared, others are on the rise. Our stress response is triggered constantly. It may be triggered by an update on the news, the temporary loss of a mobile phone or the resounding ping of an incoming email. When we are worried, anxious or fretting about something, this is when the stress response activates. Over time, if we are not able to find a way of slowing down and normalising the bodily systems involved in stress, we can start to suffer from problems such as high blood pressure, muscle tension, anxiety, insomnia and digestive problems.
Creating space during the day to leave the worried mind behind and come into the present moment has been shown to be very helpful in mitigating the negative effect of our stress response. When we are in our present moment experience, we are more likely to be able to gain perspective, make better decisions and so regulate how we respond to the pressures we face.
Here is a short ‘STOP’ practice to allow you to step into the small space between the trigger (stimulus) and the response. It is designed to introduce a mindful pause during the day, when you need it most.
S: STOP whatever you are doing and pause momentarily.
T: TAKE a few deep breaths. The breath is an anchor to the present moment. By tuning in to the passage of the breath, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system which allows us to rest and digest as we move out of stress mode.
O: OBSERVE. Notice what is happening inside and outside of you. Where has your mind gone? What do you feel? What are you doing? Notice that your thoughts are not facts and they are not permanent. Notice any emotions present and how they are being expressed in the body. Research shows that just naming your emotions can turn the volume down on the fear circuit in the brain and have a calming effect.
P: PROCEED with something that will help you in the moment. Talk to a friend, make a cup of tea or take time out to read a book. Do something for yourself. Think about when you could use this practice during the day and notice how it feels to ‘STOP’.
*Designed by Jon Kabat-Zinn
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