Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Do you find yourself getting caught up in the panic over the Coronavirus Outbreak? Are you racing from one grocery store to another, trying to find toilet paper? Are you losing sleep, worrying about whether to cancel the travel you have scheduled for this Spring? Maybe it’s time to STOP.
The STOP skill is one of my favorites from the curriculum of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)*. It’s very useful for when our emotions feel out of control and compel us to act impulsively. Right now, with a global pandemic, it’s natural to worry about the many implications of the virus spreading, but when we panic, we are not able to think clearly and evaluate whether our behavior is truly serving us. Marsha Linehan, the developer of DBT, created the STOP skill for just such a time as this.
STOP is an acronym that stands for:
Stop: Literally stop. Don’t say anything. Don’t do anything. This can prevent you from taking action or saying something that you will later regret.
Take a step back: Either physically or metaphorically – or both! Give yourself some space from the situation so you can see the bigger picture; get more context. Allow yourself to breathe.
Observe: Are there thoughts swirling in your mind, keeping you up at night? See if you can slow them down and notice what you’re thinking. Notice any emotions or urges or physical sensations.
Proceed Mindfully: Give yourself a chance to think before acting or speaking. Check in with your Inner Wisdom – what is that quiet, gentle voice saying, from deep inside you? Take action that fits your person and your character rather than letting panic decide for you. Proceed in peace.
Practicing the STOP skill during times of anxiety and panic allows us to reconnect with our inner wisdom; to make wise choices that make sense for ourselves, for our families, and for our community. This is a good time to Take a Deep Breath and check in with yourself, and then make decisions from a place of Wisdom and Peace.
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be at peace.
* From DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, Second Edition, by Marsha M. Linehan. Copyright 2015 by Marsha M. Linehan.