Slowing Down when Overwhelmed

Slowing down is so challenging for many of us. We get overwhelmed and then act. When we don’t slow down, we tend to do things impulsively. Whether this means, you agree to too much, you lean into a vice, or many more.

One of my favorite skills in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy is the STOP skill. This skill is great in helping us to become more mindful of current emotions, body sensations, thoughts, urges, and what we need in the moment. 

When we see a stop sign while driving, what do we do? We stop, take a moment to check our surroundings, wait our turn, observe if our surroundings are safe to proceed in the direction we are going, and then continue to drive. This is very similar to what we do for using the STOP skill for an emotional check in with ourselves. This helps decrease the overwhelmed feeling and check in.

Stop – literally STOP! Freeze! Don’t do anything. 

Take a step back- take a moment to breathe, take a break.

Observe – emotions, thoughts, body sensations. Take some time to identify these. 

Proceed mindfully – act with awareness, ask yourself what do you need in this moment, turning to another coping skill, taking a self-care break, asking for help/support, etc. 

The STOP skill is not just helpful for when we are experiencing intense emotions. We can utilize this skill to become more aware of any moment of any day. So often we go throughout the day trying to get everything done without slowing down to just check-in with ourselves. Turning to the STOP skill more often, you will learn more about what your body needs throughout the day and have more control over how you respond to your emotions before they overtake you! 

Linehan, M. M. (2014). DBT (R) skills training handouts and worksheets, second edition (2nd ed.). Guilford Publications.

Kendra Bittner, LPC

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