This “portable” mindfulness practice can support you as difficult moments arise at any point in your day. The four steps of the STOP practice can take as little as a few seconds to a few minutes to complete. Try it out and see how long you prefer doing each step.
To begin, the “S” stands simply for stop. Literally. Just stop what you’re doing, whether it is typing or rushing out the door. Give yourself a moment to come to rest, pause, and collect yourself.
The “T” stands for take a conscious breath. Now that you’ve paused, take a deeper breath, or two, allowing yourself to feel the expansion of the belly as you breathe deeply. Notice the sensations of being here, now. As you do so, it may help to bring your attention to the sensations of your feet meeting the floor. Feel the support of the ground and of your own relaxing breath as you do so.
The “O,” stands for observe what’s arising in you, including any thoughts, emotions, or bodily sensations (such as tension, butterflies, tightness in the jawline). Broaden your awareness to take in the circumstances. Notice how you can be in this situation without being ruled by it. For added support, offer self-compassion as you release tension and stressful thoughts. As you calm down, open to the choices you have in terms of how best to move forward from here.
Finally, the “P” reminds you to simply proceed with intentionality, taking the next step in your day from this place of strength, wisdom, and presence.
The STOP practice can help whenever you’re feeling distress, creating space to observe and tame your feelings, and to access the deeper resources within you. It helps you develop the emotional intelligence and psychological flexibility required for greater mastery over the challenging moments.
There will be days when the STOP practice saves you. It is especially helpful if you need support to move through intense feelings so that you can note them and set them aside for the moment, with the intention of reflecting on them more deeply later.