Although the human brain is a blessing, it has the potential to be a serious burden. All of the times I have nearly rear ended the car in front of me, snapping out of a “highway hypnosis.” The time I had the number of spots on my classroom ceiling memorized from counting it on infinite occasions. The intimate relationship between my pupils and bedroom wall late at night. All of the above the result of an overactive mind ruminating over every aspect of my existence.
Racing thoughts feel like the Energizer Bunny as they just “keep going and going and going…” However, we can even pull the batteries out of the bunny. This is where I present you with one of my favorite tools for racing thoughts – the STOP method.
STOP is an acronym that breaks down the process for slowing down your thoughts. It allows an individual to examine their thoughts and feelings without them interfering with one’s everyday life.
S-STOP– Ok. This might seem weird, but our first letter literally stands for “stop.” I personally like to envision a stop sign in my mind’s eye. This is the point where someone catches themselves in the moment. They can gauge how they are feeling or where their thoughts might be before they go out of control.
T- TAKE A BREATH or TAKE A BREAK– Give yourself a few moments to gather yourself. Ground yourself back in the moment to prevent your thoughts of feelings from straying off. I personally use mindfulness techniques to bring me back to reality and get me out of my own head. You could take a deep breath, count backwards, or just talk yourself down.
O- OBSERVE– In my opinion, this is the most important step. This is where the real work gets done. You examine your thoughts and feelings. Usually, you want to pick one of the two to start. If you are a “thought heavy” individual, then you will likely want to focus on the thoughts first. Then, your focus will be drawn to your emotions by asking yourself, “Why am I thinking this? What am I feeling to bring up these thoughts?” If your an emotional individual, you will simply flip the thoughts and feelings. You look at the emotions first to see what you are truly feeling in a given moment. Then, ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way? What could have caused me to feel this emotion?”
By observing your thoughts and feelings, you will be able to develop an action plan to confront them. You develop these steps in your mind through problem solving and conflict resolution techniques.
P- PROCEED- This goes in conjunction with the previous step. Carry out your action steps and then go about your day.
At first, it will feel extremely uncomfortable. This goes against everything you know and what your mind is accustomed to. However, with practice, this entire process could take only a few seconds.
When it comes to your thoughts, STOP it.
-The Caring Counselor