The STOPP technique, described as CBT in a nut shell, is an excellent tool for when things become difficult, to take back control of your emotions within stressful situations. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions, it can be difficult to know how to manage these feelings. Though it may feel counter-intuitive, the best thing we can do when driven by stress is to STOP. Often we allow our stress and anxiety and emotions to build and build all day without doing anything to calm them, trying to just ignore them and hoping they’ll go away. Then, when we finally can’t take it anymore and start feeling overwhelmed and desperate, things have often accumulated too much and begun to spiral downwards and it can be so hard to get any relief.
Stopping helps us to see more clearly how we are engaging with any task, whether we are bringing to it states of worry, frenzy, tension or a quality of calmness and ease. What is important is not so much the task itself but ‘how’ we are engaging with it. Stopping a few times a day, even for just a few moments, proves to be enormously helpful in mitigating the negative effects of stress.
Try this short experiment:
S = STOP
Stop whatever you are doing.
T = TAKE
Take a few deep breaths to calm and gather yourself. If it helps, you can say silently the words ‘in’ with the inhalation and ‘out’ with the exhalation.
O = OBSERVE
What thoughts are going through your mind?
Where is your attention focused?
What thoughts or experience caused your emotional elevation?
P = PULL BACK / PUT IN SOME PERSPECTIVE
What’s the best/most important thing for me to do right now?
When we step back emotionally from a situation, and start to see the bigger picture, it reduces those distressing beliefs. We can do this by asking ourselves questions.
P = PRACTICE WHAT WORKS / PROCEED
Having taken stock of how you are doing, is there anything you need to support yourself in this moment? Do you need a break? Can you carry on with greater ease?
Rather than reacting impulsively with unhelpful consequences, we can CHOOSE our more helpful and positive response.
Sometimes writing down what you’re experiencing can help you take a step back, calm yourself and see things with more perspective.