Stress at work? Just S.T.O.P!

“Between stimulus and response there is a space.

In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

– Victor Frankl

DO more. Do faster. Do. Do. Do. We always are doing something.

When we are not trying to meet our deadlines at work, we are busy living our lives. And boy, they have become busier and busier ! Not to mention the frenetic use of all kind of social media applications and mobile devices. Just in case we felt we could use some time to relax and connect with our inner lives !
The result: more stress and anxiety for most of us. And lives which we go through in automatic pilot mode.

Haven’t there been times when you just needed some “breathing space”?
And deeply felt the need to step out of automatic pilot mode and into the present moment?

Susan Bauer-Wu describes how mindfulness can counteract a disproportionate stress reaction and introduces STOP, a mindfulness practice you can use literally anywhere anytime to ground you and help you to be more resilient and effective in the face of difficult situations.
By the way, this simple practice is taught in several mindfulness-based programs.

Letter-S-iconStop – Checking in to Head/Heart/Body
Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately asking: What is my experience right now?

Thoughts… (what are you saying to yourself, what images are coming to mind)
Feelings… (enjoying, not enjoying, neutral, upset, excited, sad, mad, etc.)
Sensations… (actual present-moment sensations, tightness, holding, lightness)

Acknowledge and register your experience, even if it is uncomfortable.

“Take” a Breath – Directing awareness to Breathing
Gently direct full attention to breathing, to each inhale and to each exhale as they follow, one after the other. Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

Letter-OOpen and Observe – Expanding awareness outward
Expand the field of your awareness around and beyond your breathing, so that it includes a sense of the body as a whole, your posture, and facial expression, then further outward to what is happening around you: sights, sounds, smells, etc. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments.

Letter PProceed / new Possibilities – Continuing without expectation
Let your attention now move into the world around you, sensing how things are right now. Rather than react habitually/mechanically, you can be curious/open, responding naturally. You may even be surprised by what happens next after having created this pause.

If you remember nothing else, just remember the word “STOP”.

As with many new practices, the best way to make it second nature is to practice it when you aren’t stressed, such as during the “in between” times, like waiting in line, walking from one office to another, getting in/out of your car, etc. And when you will get caught in stressful situations at work, remember to STOP.

When the situation is too difficult to cope with, I have sometimes found it difficult to STOP. And found myself just caught into it. What I did though is to try to go through the STOP process the minute I realized I had just been carried away. That has still a lot of benefits as you learn to anchor new habits.

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