In my earlier blog on Techniques for relaxation, I had described two techniques that one can use to stall anxious thoughts. Regular practice of these techniques will ensure a calmer frame of mind and more rational reactions to difficult situations. In Dialectical Behavior therapy made popular by its proponent Dr. Marcia Linehan, we understand that human beings can either be rational or emotional. While emotions are present all the time, it is important to control emotions that are destructive . Dr.Linehan talks about the wise mind and the emotional mind. Decisions made under a cloud of emotions are often regretted. If one uses the wise or the rational mind more often in situations which create anxiety, we might be able to gain control over anxiety.
Here is another technique that promotes a calmer and therefore rational state of mind.
S T O P :
The STOP technique is used when you realize that your emotions are gaining the upper hand. In order not to make an impulsive decision and to regain control over your emotions you can use this technique which is an acronym that also indicates the action one needs to take. It derails problematic behavior even before it is implemented.
S: Stop your first impulse to react. Let us take the example of the lost cell phone I had discussed in my earlier blog. Stop for a moment and take a few deep breaths. This will help you to calm down involuntarily and clear the fog created by a sudden burst of emotion. When the brain is clearer, memories of the previous use of the cell phone can be accessed. You can think back to remember where you may have used it last.
T: Take a step backward – in your mind and ask your self whether you really want to give in to your first impulse and report a theft. Instead of rushing around like a headless chicken, retrace your actions in your mind. This will give you an idea of where you need to look before you start complaining that it is stolen and really work yourself up.
O: Observe – what is happening around you and within you. Check your impulses and understand why you are about to panic, what are the emotions and thoughts going through your mind? That will them lead you to the next step of what action you need to take. Understand the situation, what is going on around you and who is present. Take stock of the situation.
P: Proceed mindfully – Ask your wise mind what is the best way to proceed – check in your car? Ask someone to call it? And then maybe you can ask people around you if they have seen a cellphone? When you have listed a few possible actions, start going through them one by one, giving each one your complete attention. When one pauses to think in a difficult situation, it may appear to be a waste of time. But it is time well spent to collect your thoughts. The human mind is capable to draw on reserves of memories and knowledge and process the best option for action if only it is given a little time. In school examinations, have your noticed that your brain just freezes when you see a difficult question. The freeze would continue if you gave into it. On the other hand if you took a moment to breath deeply, you would find you brain calming down and searching for the answer. It may come to you slowly, in bits and pieces. A few more calming breaths and you will notice the answer taking shape in your mind. However this takes practice and the natural human tendency is to panic.
If someone has just been mean to you, instead of retorting with rude words of your own, you could stop yourself by taking a few deep breaths , or count up to ten, or even walk away giving yourself the time to think of an appropriate response Once we pause, the rational mind gets the time to take over.
Don’t take my word for it, think about the various occasions when you have given in to your first impulse and have regretted that. You can then ask your self if you really want to do the first thing that occurred to you? Would you not rather consider the options and then take the action that suits you well and will keep your emotions in check.