If you’re stressed, maybe it’s time to stop.
The STOP mindfulness technique stands for:
>> Stop. Be present.
>> Take a breath. Deep breathing will calm and center you.
>> Observe. Notice what is. Accept what is. Be.
>> Proceed. Go back to what you were doing.
You can stop anytime doing anything; you can be mindful on the go. All you have to do is notice what’s around you, not judge yourself or your thoughts, and be in the moment.
When you do this, you will have much more patience with life—you stop to smell the roses. When you appreciate the little things, it makes the bigger things easier to deal with.
This is about making your choices with awareness.
When you are aware in general, you become limitless. You stop just seeing the tree in front of you and, instead, see the whole forest. But even beyond that, you know you are an observer and observe yourself observing.
You can stop when you are doing laundry. You can stop when you are in traffic. You can stop when your child is having a meltdown.
You can stop when you actually try to meditate.
You can stop when you have any sense of overwhelm in your current situation.
Stopping doesn’t make the bad stuff go away; it just grounds you so much into the present that your problems do not have the final say. Being mindful means you are calmer, clearer, and more in charge of your life.
You stop impulsively reacting to things and start responding proactively. Stopping makes all the difference. After all, you are one decision away from a different life.
How powerful it is to decide!
When you notice what you are doing and saying before you do and say things, you foster some restraint. This restraint is about no longer needing to prove yourself.
You do not have to have it all figured out. Instead of an outburst at work or a fight with a spouse, you mindfully make peace because you know that means more than being right.
Mindfulness is a treat to yourself; you can indulge in the moment, not just experience it. Stopping reminds you how to do that.
When you are outside in nature on a walk or meditating, it’s easy to feel connected with yourself; but there’s a disconnect that happens in daily life. This disconnect starts when you step outside of your authentic self and start people pleasing, conditioning yourself to meet others’ expectations. Then, the experience of being alive becomes heavy and full of hardship.
When you live mindfully, you walk lighter. You are more at ease. You are brighter. It’s a mindset change that changes everything.
Here’s what it looks like:
You are drowning in work, ignoring your needs, not checking in with yourself for hours on end.
You have a deadline due. You know that others are counting on you. You have to count on yourself. You feel stress and pressure to make it right. The perfectionist in you—the inner critic—wants you to beat yourself up on how little progress you are making in the allotted time.
You fear failure, and that is exactly the reason why you have trouble focusing on the task at hand. You know how important it is for you to complete it, and yet, you are experiencing analysis paralysis where you can’t do a thing.
So, you decide to stop.
You stop. You put down the workload. You move into a different space, maybe go outside. You turn off your cell phone. You stop thinking about all that you have to do.
You take a deep breath. It is nice to release tension throughout your body. You lower your shoulders, unclench your jaw, and stretch a little.
When’s the last time you really took a deep breath? Already, you feel your anxiety dissipating.
You observe your backyard, the way the sun shines through the trees. You look up at the clouds. You smell the cool crisp air. You listen to the birds sing. You relax. Thoughts come up, like “I shouldn’t be stopping,” but you let them go. You just observe your surroundings.
In this moment, you are enough. You are not relying on any external validation or label in order to feel successful. You are no longer judging yourself.
Lastly, you proceed. Having had this moment, you feel more confident taking in your workload. You even have some idea of how to start and finish the project by breaking down tasks and creating small goals for yourself, before just tackling it all at once.
Stressing less, you feel more in control. You determine that you will do your best, and if it’s not perfect, it’s not the end of the world. This doesn’t define your well-being or state of mind—your mindfulness practice does.
When you practice the STOP mindfulness technique, you are resilient and resourceful. You are a better problem solver. You are more efficient, not less. And you find more reasons to keep going.
All you have to be is look around you and know what’s really important.
Want to live a better life? All you have to do is stop.
Stop trying, stop resisting, and stop beating yourself up. Try to it today, and see the changes!