The Four Step Approach to Reducing Stress

This is a four step approach that is helpful for reducing stress and will be helpful in your day to day activities:

  1. STOP
  2. BREATHE (Pause)
  3. REFLECT (Be Mindful)

As I discuss in other articles, I want to spread the message of “Waking UP Before You Get a Major Wake UP Call,” meaning if we can tap into the triggers that we are experiencing or the stressors we experience at work, home, and in our relationships, then we wake up and make meaningful choices that reflect our values and our purpose, rather than be sideswiped into something we didn’t expect. Yes, there will be things we cannot control that will shake us up, but I am suggesting to wake up and pay attention and be mindful before that major crisis may disrupt our lives.

#1. STOP

Each time you encounter stress or a trigger affects you, notice the warning signs. STOP before your thoughts can escalate into a worst possible scenario. Castastrophizing , Awfulizing, or ruminating over our thoughts sets us into a tail spin. The act of simply saying “stop” to yourself can help break your pattern of automatic response and interrupt the negative stress cycle. Try to be mindful and aware of when you notice your thoughts and then go back to the present moment. 

#2. BREATHE  or take a PAUSE

After , you stop, breathe deeply and pause. Notice where the physical tension is, then release the tension. You can do this by deep breathing, but you can also breathe into this area and then exhale with a long breath.  This is useful in breaking the Negative Stress Cycle. Physically taking a breath can be very important because when we are under stress or feeling many different emotions, we tend to hold our breath. When we concentrate on our breath , we are in the moment, and our attention is focusing on our breathing and away from the stress we are experiencing. This momentary interruption allows us to focus our attention and hopefully look at our stress or triggers in a different way. 


Once you have stopped the cycle of rumination  and awfulizing your thoughts and taken a deep breath, you can focus your energy when you are feeling calmer and focus on the problem at hand and reflect on the cause of this stress. We then can drop into the position of observer or witness to gain insight into seeing how our mind works. This process of reflection is helpful in developing awareness of our stress and our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and body sensations of what we are experiencing  at this time. 


After you have stopped the process of responding automatically, it is time to choose how to deal with the stress and wake up and make conscious choices that reflect your intentions, values, and purpose.

This takes practice. As with anything, if we want to change a habit, find more motivation in our lives,  or be able to get unstuck, then we need to take small steps forward. It is one thing to say,  “I want to begin to meditate,” and it is another thing to begin. Please take your time in practicing these steps and be kind to yourself. If you fall off, do not badger yourself with unkind words, just do it again the next day with love toward yourself and self-compassion. 

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