STOP is a distress tolerance skill from dialectical behavior therapy we can use whenever we’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and anxiety or distressing emotions.
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.
The more we allow stress and distressing emotions to accumulate, the more difficult they become to address. That’s why one of the keys to managing our feelings is to find ways to not let them build up so much in the first place.
One effective way to accomplish this is with an exercise called STOPP. STOPP is designed to help you stop stress and anxiety in their tracks, as soon as you begin to notice them, rather than waiting until they become overwhelming.
STOPP stands for:
- Stop what you’re doing
- Take a step back to calm and gather yourself
- THOUGHTS: What thoughts am I having? What’s going through my mind? What am I saying to myself?
- BODY SENSATIONS: What physical sensations am I experiencing? Where in my body am I experiencing them?
- FEELINGS: What feelings or emotions am I experiencing?
- BEHAVIOUR: What am I doing? How am I acting? What do I want to do
- Plan: What’s the best/most important thing for me to do right now?
- Proceed to act mindfully, taking whatever action you’ve planned.
Everyone has trouble dealing with high levels of stress and emotional distress at times. Doing this exercise whenever you become aware that you’re starting to feel stressed or that your emotions are becoming difficult to deal with is a great way to attend to your feelings before they build and become overwhelming.