Life can be stressful, and that is especially true in the 21st century. Finding solutions to help manage that stress is becoming ever more important. In this article we’ll cover two mindfulness guided practices to help you stay present no matter what life throws your way:
The STOP method, and Mindful Walking.
These mindfulness guided practices, introduced to us by Dr. Dina Wyshogrod, are fantastic tools that only take a few minutes to complete. Let’s begin with the STOP method.
What is the STOP method? In short, it stands for Stop, Take a deep breath, Observe, Praise and Proceed. There are several mindfulness guided practices designed to help people react to stress, but the STOP method is one of the quickest and most effective ways to get out of ‘autopilot’ and back in control. It should only take you a few minutes to complete, and we’ll walk you through the step-by-step instructions. (Of course, if you’d prefer to listen to this practice rather than read about it, we’re totally on board with that. You can find the STOP method – and several other mindfulness guided practices – on our Alpe Audio course, Everyday Mindfulness.) That said, let’s dive in.
S = Stop
When you encounter a stressor, like an angry email from your boss or news that your vacation plans have been canceled, the first thing to do is to stop whatever you’re doing and get into a comfortable position. That can be seated, lying down, or even just standing in a relaxed stance. Once you’ve done that, you’re going to move onto step two.
T = Take a deep breath
Take a few deep breaths. In through the nose. Out through the mouth. Try to focus on long, even, breathing. This step can take as long or as short as you’d like, but don’t skip out on it. Breathing deeply signals to our body that we can turn off the ‘fight or flight’ mode.
O = Observe
The next step in the STOP method is to observe your body. Notice if there is any tension or discomfort anywhere. Pay attention to your breathing. Take stock of your emotions. If your mind begins to wander, that’s okay. Whenever you feel yourself beginning to get anxious, return your attention to your body. Try to sit here for a few moments or minutes, however long you have.
And that brings us to the final step in the first of our mindfulness guided practices:
P = Proceed
Once you’ve gotten yourself out of autopilot and taken some time to pay attention to your body, it’s time to return to the ‘real world’. Take this opportunity to praise yourself for making time to recenter your focus. It’s not easy to be mindful, and you should be proud that you choose to work at it. Then, get back to the task at hand. Do you need to respond to your boss? Write that email. Do you need to call the airline company and get a refund? Pick up the phone. Oftentimes, once we have stepped out of the spiral of stress and fear, the tasks we thought were daunting turn out to be no big deal.
The STOP method is a great first step to managing acute stressors. That said, it is only one of the guided mindfulness practices that you can use to reduce stress in your life.
If you’re looking for a stress-reduction tool that you can build into your daily routine, then look no further than the second of our guided mindfulness practices: mindful walking. This is a practice that you can do once or twice a week, or even every day. All you need is a few minutes and a quiet space with around three meters (or yards) to walk in.
For most people, walking is something we do automatically – without giving it much thought. The truth is, though, that walking upright was once the greatest accomplishment of our young lives. By focusing attention on our walking, we can train our minds to get out of ‘autopilot’ mode more easily.
This practice, like the STOP method, is available as part of our audio guided mindfulness practices here. With that said, let’s get started.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is find a safe space to walk in. It can be the distance from your desk to your office door or a quiet outdoor space that you love. The main thing is that there are no obstacles on the floor that you’ll need to be aware of or step over. If you feel comfortable taking off your shoes, you can absolutely do this exercise barefoot.
Next, begin walking back and forth along the path that you’ve set out. Gradually, slow your steps as much as you can without losing balance. Pay attention to the sensations in your body. How does the ground feel against your feet. Which muscles are tensing or relaxing as you go? At the same time that you’re walking, you can also pay attention to your breath. Match your breathing to your steps to help create a rhythm that you can focus on.
Once you’ve done this for a few moments, slowly begin to pick up the pace again. Become more aware of your broader surroundings. Prepare to step back into your day. And just as with the STOP method, take this time to thank yourself for prioritizing your well-being.
So, what did you think of these two mindfulness guided practices? Do you see yourself working them into your schedule? Check out our Everyday Mindfulness course at Alpe Audio. There, we introduce you to an additional 14 mindfulness guided practices to help you relax and reduce stress.