Throughout life, we all have moments we’d like a button to push that simply says ‘reset’. When our thoughts get too much, when the panic starts to rise, having this handy little button could help slow everything down and make things feel that little bit easier.
Fortunately, clever psychologists have developed tricks that are just as good as this, and help to reduce stress in as little as 60 seconds.
It’s called S.T.O.P, and it was developed by clinical psychologist Elisha Goldstein to help you do exactly that, stop.
The first step is to simply stop what you’re doing, and start to become aware of your thoughts. This means literally putting down whatever you’re doing, and sitting still.
Take a few deep breaths.
A huge amount of research has shown the benefits that breathing can have on reducing stress and improving wellbeing.
The trick is to observe your breath, and start to slow it as much as possible. This may be by counting in for three seconds, holding for three, and breathing out for three, or by thinking “in” and “out” when inhaling and exhaling.
The important thing is to focus on your breath in whatever way feels comfortable and calm for you.
After focusing on your breath, start focusing on your experience. This includes observing what your thoughts, feelings and emotions are at that very moment.
Things that may help this could be considering the fleeting nature of the thoughts, and noticing how they drift in, and then drift out of your head.
Naming the feelings you’re experiencing may also help reduce their severity according to Dr Elisha, and may result in feelings of calmness.
Finally, thinking about where your body is in space can bring your attention to the present moment and help you feel grounded in the moment. Are you sitting? Standing? Are your shoulders hunched?
Once you’ve observed your experience, you can then proceed.
This step involves proceeding with something that may help you get through this moment. It could be going for a walk, talking with someone who understands, or putting on your favourite sitcom for a few minutes.
Dr Elisha suggests the important thing to keep in mind when doing this exercise is treating it all as an experiment. Remain curious about how your body and mind are feeling, reflecting on the events that led you to this point.
You can do it at any time, at any place, and all you need to remember to do, is stop.