Modern Mindfulness: tools for stressful situations

New to the Modern Mindfulness series? Catch up by reading Modern Mindfulness For Beginners first.

Let’s face it, there’s no way to remove external stress from your life. Sh*t happens, and it’s often outside of your control. However, there are ways to manage your reaction to stress, which is a major cause of the stress in our life.


The  S.T.O.P. method is a powerful, yet surprisingly simple strategy that helps you to be focused, alert, relaxed, and at your emotional best when a stressful moment presents itself in your life.

It’s a four-step mental checklist which utilises a very brief break (can be less than a minute), so that you can determine the very best mindful action to take in stressful situations.

S = Stop

  • Stop what you are doing: don’t immediately react to a situation, press the pause button on your thoughts and actions.

T = Take

  • Take a few deep breaths to centre yourself and bring yourself fully into the present moment.

  • Focus on your breathing for 3 to 7 counts. Breathe slowly and deeply, try to fill your lungs a little more that usual. Ideally, you want to breathe through your nose, since breathing through the mouth triggers your fight or flight response and that’s not what we want right now.

  • By doing this breathing technique, anxiety will usually decrease and your mind will be more calm and focused.

O = Observe

Observe what is going on in your:

  • Body: What physical sensations are you aware of (touch, sight, hearing, taste, smell)?

  • Emotions: What are you feeling right now?

    • When we’re faced with tough challenges, we naturally suppress and hide our emotions in an effort to appear strong and capable of handling the situation. But mindfulness is not about suppressing emotions — it’s about maintaining awareness of them.

  • Mind: What assumptions are your making about your feelings? What is the story you’re telling yourself about why you are having them?

    • Our brains are prewired to focus on the negative. We are naturally pulled toward scanning everything that could go wrong. However, just because we think it doesn’t mean we need to believe it. Thoughts are not facts. 

P = Proceed

  • Proceed with what you were doing, making a conscious, intentional choice to incorporate what you just learned from this simply exercise.

Do you need some extra guidance?

Listen to Deepak Chopra's one minute meditation you can do at your desk or this 7 minute mindfulness practice for responding to stress.