Stress is unavoidable. It may be impossible to eliminate from our lives entirely, but we can be constructive and intentional in the way we respond.
One of my favorite stress-relieving skills I teach clients in my coaching practice is the STOP Tool. It’s simple, powerful, and easily applied to a variety of circumstances.
You can implement this when feeling overwhelmed, before attending a meeting, joining in a crucial conversation, or making a decision. There’s no minimum or maximum time limit, and if you’re in a public place, no one even needs to know what you’re doing.
The STOP Tool is a form of insight meditation, which oxford dictionary defines as “a form of Buddhist meditation that employs concentration sharply focused on bodily sensations and mental events, practiced with the intention of gaining insight into reality.” To find more information on this compelling practice, check out the Insight Meditation Society, co-founded by Joseph Goldstein and Sharon Salzberg.
Complete the following steps silently to yourself anytime you need to cultivate a sense of calm, grounding, or serenity.
- S – Stop. Physically stop what you are doing. Stop walking and talking. Set down anything you are holding, if possible. You might stand still, but ideally, sit down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes if you can. If you want or need to keep them open, gaze softly towards the floor in front of you.
- T – Take a breath. Inhale through your nose, filling your lungs as your belly rises. Exhale through your mouth completely, even letting an “ahhhh” sound escape if it feels right. You may only have time for one full, deep breath, but if you can, take advantage of this soothing action for a minute or two. Mindful breathing not only centers us, but it also has significant physical benefits. Inhaling nourishes the brain and other organs with oxygen, which is essential for them to do their job well.
- O – Observe. Engage in curious, friendly observation without judging or attaching to stories. Notice any physical sensations you have. Is there tension in your face or shoulders? Is your stomach filled with butterflies? There may be a tightness to your chest. Perhaps you notice there are no sensations or become aware of numbness. A lack of feeling is not wrong; it’s merely something to witness with kind curiosity. Next, observe the quality of your mind. See if you can watch thoughts come and go without attaching to them. Be aware of any stories you might be telling yourself, or judgments your mind is creating. Observing without attaching gives us the ability to be objective. We find we can experience feelings, emotions, and thoughts, yet don’t have to act on or react to them. At this point, you might open your eyes and become aware of your surroundings while staying in the meditative state.
- P – Proceed with intention, compassion, and mindfulness. Perhaps you need self-care, such as a cup of hot tea or a walk outside in nature. Connecting with a close friend or support system might be wise. Your next move might require you to go to work, attend a high stakes meeting, or engage in a difficult conversation. Can you proceed with mindful presence, aiming for gentle observation, letting go of judgment and avoiding reactivity?
Are you interested in learning more about mindfulness?
Curious how a meditation practice can help you decrease stress, stay sober, or become more focused in the present?
Schedule a Discovery Call, or email me email@example.com
Together, we can co-create a customized meditation plan to meet your specific needs.
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