Mind Racing with Worry or Stress? Try to S.T.O.P.

Woman with eyes closed

For many of us, the past year has brought high levels of stress and uncertainty. Practicing mindfulness can help us gain perspective and a sense of calm. Here's one simple exercise you can try.

S — Stop what you are doing.
T — Take six deep breaths: breathe in for three seconds, hold your breath for three seconds, then let your breath out over three seconds.
O — Observe your experience just as it is.
P — Proceed with something that will support you at this moment.

Stop, take a few deep breaths, and reflect on what is on your mind—remembering that thoughts are not facts, and not permanent. Notice how your emotions are being expressed in your body. Then, notice your posture and scan for any aches or pains. Proceed with something that will support you at the moment; talk to a friend, stretch, have a cup of tea.

Look for opportunities in the day to S.T.O.P., such as waking up in the morning, before eating a meal, at a stoplight, before sitting down at work, or whenever you feel your chest tighten and your breathing get shallow.

If you struggle with anxiety or panic often, speak to your primary care provider about it. Cheshire's Primary Care Behavioral Health Specialists may be able to provide resources and tools to help you cope, especially if stress is affecting the quality of your sleep or vice versa. Our Center for Population Health also offers frequent community education events focused on emotional well-being and resilience.