How to STOP (STOP your Anxiety Technique brought to you by therapists in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe)
We have around 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, and about 95% of them are from the day before. While research varies on the exact number, what is clear is how much our thoughts of today come from the day before, and the day before that, and the day before that…
If you struggle with anxious, sad, or angry thoughts, it can be difficult to get out from under them. The repetitive nature of thoughts can lead to the feeling that they will never go away. But there is hope, all you have to do is STOP…
Stop what you are doing.
Take 3 deep breaths.
Observe what is happening.
Proceed with awareness.
You might be thinking, wait, is it really that easy!? Well, no and yes. Consider the STOP technique is not easy, but simple. In a culture where we are encouraged to do, produce, get ahead, and get more, STOPing and getting present can be really difficult. The intention is to slow down your breath, slow down your thoughts, and slow down your reactions so you can better respond to your thoughts and emotions. The effectiveness of this technique does not exist in the realm of doing. The effectiveness of this technique exists in the realm of being present.
The STOP anxiety technique takes practice and patience. With a little bit of commitment, practicing the STOP mindfulness technique can support you in creating a more ease-full life with more space for choice and freedom. Instead of reacting to your anxious, sad, angry, or other difficult thoughts and emotions, you can develop the ability to respond to them.
Stop Anxiety Technique: Stop What you are Doing
There is a Turkish Proverb that says “no matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.” You have the power to stop, change, and re-start after any thought or emotion. You are not your thoughts, you have thoughts. You are not your emotions, you have emotions. With practice, you can become aware of your thoughts and emotions and you can make a choice to hold onto them or let them flow and let them go.
Stopping is a mindfulness tool for anxiety and allows you to take inventory of what you are feeling and what is actually happening. Anxiety can be a great motivator, but it can also stop you from being present and seeing the possibility that exists around you. Being present allows you to see what is actually happening as opposed to what you interpret to be happening. Stopping allows you to get clear on whether you are hearing what is being said or you are hearing what you want to hear. The first step to mindfulness and presence is stopping, because it is in stillness that you can begin to see what is really happening in front of you.
In a culture where we are always encouraged to do, stopping and being still is not easy. Stopping and stillness is a practice. You can support yourself in this practice by using the mantra STOP as a reminder. When the thoughts start spinning, remind yourself to STOP and then take three deep breaths.
Stop Anxiety Technique: Take 3 Deep Breaths
Inhale through your nose to the count of four and exhale through your nose or mouth to the count of four. Do this three times or for up to 90 seconds. Research shows it takes around 90 seconds for the body to process an emotion and taking three deep breaths helps support this process. Breath control practices (even as simple as taking three breaths mindfully) help calm your nervous system which in turn decreases the effects of stress and ultimately improves your mental health.
Breathing is one of the few bodily functions you have conscious control over. For example, you don’t have the power to stop and start your heart from beating, but you do have the power to hold your breath and or control the length of your inhale and exhale. Research has shown that voluntary, slow, and deep breathing techniques have physiological benefits. Mindful breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to slow down certain physiological processes that may be functioning too fast or disrupting your body’s state of balance and homeostasis. Remember, 90 seconds for the body to process an emotion.
Taking three deep breaths can support you in coming back to your center. It is a way for you to ground yourself in the present moment. Breathing allows you to clearly observe what is happening around you without your anxious, sad, or angry thoughts from the day before getting in your way.
Stop Anxiety Technique: Observe What is Happening
Now is the time to take an honest inventory of what is happening. What core beliefs are coming up for you and causing these anxious, sad, or angry thoughts? Core beliefs are how you view yourself in relation to others and the world. Your core beliefs are the lens through which you see every situation and experience. Supportive and rational core beliefs lead to balanced responses and easeful thought and emotional patterns. Inaccurate and harmful core beliefs can lead to negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Common harmful core beliefs are I am weak, I am bad, I am unlovable, and no one likes me. You are not born with these harmful beliefs, you learn them during stressful and traumatic childhood and adult experiences. For some reason, these negative core beliefs were a way that you coped with past experiences and made meaning of them. It is important to remember that these negative core beliefs are not true even though they feel true.
Observing what is happening is a way for you to be honest with yourself. Are your thoughts a response to supportive and rational core beliefs or inaccurate and harmful core beliefs? To determine this, look around and ask yourself, what is actually happening? What do you know to be true? What are the facts of the situation? What is your interpretation? What are you inferring? What assumptions are you making? When you are aware that what you are thinking is based on an inaccurate or harmful core belief, you can then make a choice. You can choose to think how you thought the day before or you can proceed with awareness and think in a new way.
Stop Anxiety Technique: Proceed with Awareness
Now is the time to decide, or at least be aware of, if you are living your life based on thoughts you had the day before, or thoughts you are creating in the here now moment. The 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts you had yesterday served you and were necessary. Yet the past no longer exists, the future is unknown, and all that really exists is the present moment.
You have stopped, taken three deep breaths, observed your thoughts and core beliefs. Now you have a unique opportunity. An opportunity to continue thinking the same anxious, sad, or angry thoughts or replace them with something new. Remember, this is not an easy process. Replacing rigid and long standing thought patterns and core beliefs is a practice. A practice that occurs with every inhale and every exhale.
While you are not responsible for the stressful and traumatic childhood and adult experiences that led to your negative thought patterns and core beliefs, you are responsible for your healing. But you can only take full ownership and responsibility for your healing when you become AWARE of what is in the way of your healing. Proceeding with awareness is not only the last step in STOPing your anxiety, it is the start of your healing and mindfulness journey.
Stop Anxiety Technique: What’s Next
Are you interested in learning more about the STOP technique and other mindfulness tools? Then schedule an appointment with me or another one of the skilled and knowledgeable Center for Growth therapists. You can self schedule an in-person or virtual individual or couples therapy session or by calling the Center for Growth at (215) 922-5683 x 100.
For your convenience we have 5 physical offices and provide virtual therapy services in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia.
Ocean City Therapy Office
360 West Ave, Floor 1, Ocean City, NJ 08226
Mechanicsville Therapy Office
9044 Mann Drive, Mechanicsville Virginia, 23116
Society Hill Therapy Office
233 S. 6th Street, C-33, Philadelphia PA 19106
Art Museum / Fairmount Therapy Office
2401 Pennsylvania Ave, Suite 1a2, Philadelphia PA 19130
Santa Fe Therapy Office, 2204 B Brothers Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 87505
Telemedicine: We have therapists who are licensed to work in Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Virginia, New Mexico and Pennsylvania
We also offer a wide variety of Support Groups & Therapy Groups in Philadelphia PA & Virtual in NJ & VA, to learn more click HERE.
You deserve the best therapist possible and this begins with matching you with the right therapist. Check out our GUARANTEE.We are here to support you in your personal growth and healing journey through individual and group support and therapy.
@chopra (2020, June 11).
Novotny, S., & Kravitz, L. (2007). The science of breathing: it's more than automatic. IDEA Fitness Journal, 4(2), 36+.
We decided to have some fun, and compare our work as therapists to artificial intelligence.
Computer generated response to the prompt:
Stop Your Anxiety Now
Anxiety is a normal response to stress, but when it becomes excessive or chronic it can interfere with daily life and well-being. There are several ways to help reduce anxiety and improve symptoms.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga can help to reduce physical tension and calm the mind.
- Exercise: Regular physical activity can help to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
- Sleep: Make sure you are getting enough quality sleep each night.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A form of talk therapy that can help to identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to anxiety.
- Medication: Medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and benzodiazepines can help to reduce anxiety symptoms, but they should only be used under the guidance of a healthcare provider.
- A healthy diet and avoiding or limiting caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can also help to reduce anxiety symptoms.
- Support: Support from friends, family, and a therapist can provide emotional support and encouragement.
It's important to note that what works for one person may not work for another, so it's important to work with a healthcare provider to find the best plan of action for you. It's also important to have a long-term plan for managing anxiety and to not expect immediate results.
Anxiety Therapy Techniques
There are several therapy techniques that can be used to help reduce anxiety symptoms. These include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This form of talk therapy focuses on identifying and changing negative thoughts and behaviors that may be contributing to anxiety. CBT can help individuals to challenge and reframe negative thoughts, and develop coping strategies for dealing with anxiety-provoking situations.
- Exposure therapy: This involves gradually exposing individuals to the situations or things that trigger their anxiety, in a controlled and safe environment, with the goal of helping them to learn to cope with and eventually overcome their fear.
- Mindfulness-based therapies: These therapies, such as Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), teach individuals to focus on the present moment and accept their thoughts and feelings without judgment. This can help to reduce anxiety and improve overall well-being.
- Relaxation techniques: Such as progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery and biofeedback can help to reduce physical tension and calm the mind.
- Art therapy, play therapy and other expressive therapies: Can be used as well to help the individual to express their feelings and thoughts.
It's important to remember that therapy is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one person may not work for another. A therapist can work with an individual to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses their specific needs and concerns.