Everybody experiences some stress from time to time.  Everyone can also admit to feeling some anxiety.  Many of us often get angry.  In each and every moment of discontent, we all have the ability to deal with these negative emotions in a positive way.  It starts and ends with the way we choose to talk to ourselves.  

Do you talk to yourself?  I talk to myself all the time.  Because I’m aware of the impact of self-talk, I understand that when we repeat certain messages to ourselves, they become imprinted in our consciousness.   “I’m a worrier.”  “I have a right to hold a grudge.”  “I hate him.”  You get the idea, right?

And now it’s time for us to S.T.O.P.

I cannot take credit for the S.T.O.P. acronym.  It’s used by therapists for stress management, for mindfulness, and as a method of cognitive therapy.  I recently encountered this principle during a conversation with a friend who made the admirable decision to take control of both his physical and mental health.  He’s not only living S.T.O.P., he’s actually teaching it!  So, here goes — let’s see if I’m a good student. 

Briefly speaking, when we’re in a situation of stress, anxiety, or anger, it’s beneficial to:

S – Stop

T – Take a breath

O – Observe what’s occurring in that moment

P – Proceed with intention

Of course, situations of stress, anxiety, and anger can occur multiple times each day, and even more so over the past 18+ months.  How we choose to handle the anxiety is paramount, but if our self-talk starts out negatively, we’re often times unintentionally exacerbating the stress, the anxiety, and the anger.  

By way of a personal example, I got a call the other day from a friend, asking — no, demanding — that I do him a favor.  Instead of telling him no way, absolutely not, I’m not your personal assistant, do it yourself or find someone else, I bought myself some time by asking him to check back with me later that day.  When I hung up the phone, I was furious!  And then I Stopped, Took a breath, Observed that I was in control of the situation, and then I Proceeded with what I had been doing before he interrupted me.  A few hours later when he called me back, I was no longer angry.  I decided to simply do what he asked (and vowed to myself that this would be the last time I’d do so).

The S.T.O.P. acronym was in the forefront of my mind, so I was able to access it when I desperately needed it.  Since you’re still reading this, I’m going to challenge you to commit these four simple steps to your own memory.  Then, the next time you’re stressed, anxious, or angry, I’ll further challenge you to S.T.O.P. in the moment and give this a try.

Please let me know how it works for you.