Our thoughts and emotions can take control of our daily experience and make it difficult for us to get things done. Maybe your every day is “like living in a soft rain of post-it notes.” Maybe you’re losing time as your mind drifts into a thorough over-analysis of events past and future. You’re stuck reliving feelings and events and your body is on autopilot, perhaps staying still or perhaps coping by picking at your skin or finding hairs that would be satisfying to pull. Whatever happens when you’re not fully in your present, you come back to the same tasks undone and time and energy you won’t get back. How do you take back your time, your life?
Learning to use the STOP skill from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy can help you get back on track. STOP is a handy acronym that allows you to get in touch with what is going on inside and around you, and refocus on what you want to do:
- S – Stop. When you realize you are caught up in your stream of thoughts, feelings, or unwanted actions, put a halt to the process as safely as you can for the environment.
- T – Take a step back, take a deep breath. Close your eyes if it’s ok to do so, but either way take a deep breath or two. Focus on those inhales and exhales for just a moment.
- O – Observe. Observe the details inside and outside of yourself. How are you feeling right now that is contributing to this moment? What is going on around you that needs to be attended to? What is your best course of action to move forward right now? What do you need to be doing, what would your ideal self do right now?
- P – Proceed mindfully. Giving your attention to what you need to focus on right now, proceed with the actions that bring you closer to that goal. Do your best to stay in the present while you put your current goals into action.
Staying on top of feelings and thoughts can be tiring. With gentle practice, however, you can build this skill and become more in charge of what you do next. This is, of course, one tool in your toolbox for handling potentially complicated situations. If building your full toolbox is something you need help with, we can schedule some time to talk.
Stephanie Bloodworth, LMFT-A
Cross posted at Flourish Mental Health