STOP Stress & Anxiety
Would you like to learn a way to STOP much of your stress and anxiety dead in its tracks? Much attention has been given to the practice of mindfulness for reducing stress and anxiety. Mindfulness refers to the ability to remain more grounded and attentive in the present moment. Why is this valuable?
More often than not anxiety is the result of what you could call negative time travel.* This is when we dwell on the regrets and upsets of the past or project worries into the future, an ability only humans seem to have. To a certain degree, this is beneficial in that it allows us to prepare for upcoming problems and challenges in advance. The potential downside of all this time travel is that your body will respond as if the negative scenarios you are imaging were happening NOW.
With a mindfulness practice, you learn how to snap yourself out of these negative trances by directing your attention back to the NOW. There are a number of techniques that can enable you to do this. Below is my version of the STOP technique that you may find helpful.
The acronym STOP makes this technique easy to remember and once learned, it should only take 30-60 seconds to practice.
S= stands for SMILE. You interrupt your current state by taking a nice easy breath and putting on a half-smile, kind of like the Mona Lisa. This is a simple yet effective way of altering your physiology.
T= the next step involves engaging your sense of TOUCH. You can do this with your eyes open or closed. Spend a couple of moments observing wherever your body is in contact with the environment. It could be the chair or bed beneath you. If standing, it could be the feeling of how your feet are contacting with the ground.
O= stands for OBSERVE with your sense of sight and hearing. Open your eyes if they were closed for the previous step. Spend a few more moments noticing what you can see in your environment as well as what you can hear.
P=the last step is to choose what you want your PRESENT focus to be. Maybe it's giving your attention to a specific task or it might be a good time to relax and let go. You get to decide.
There you have it: SMILE-TOUCH-OBSERVE-PRESENT.
You will want to practice several times of day rather than waiting for when you feel anxious. The ideal is to become more mindful in your everyday life as it will allow you to become more relaxed and focused. You could write down the word STOP on post-it notes as a reminder or set up a notification on your phone. With a bit of practice, you can become a champ at grounding yourself more fully in this present moment. Feel free to connect with your comments and questions.
*Time travel is not always negative. Ever notice how the time leading up to a vacation is often almost as enjoyable as the getaway itself? The planning for the trip fosters positive feelings as if they were happening now.