Updated: Oct 31, 2022
Take a breath
If I had to pick just one practice to share, it might be STOP. I use this all. the. time. At least I try to.
Don't be fooled. It sounds simple. But it's not easy. Reactivity intrudes easily.
In fact-- no joke-- as I wrote the last paragraph, I got distracted TWICE. First an email popped into my inbox and I toggled over to delete it. I returned to writing. A text lit up. I responded to it.
And then I noticed the irony of what I was doing! Two more email dings come in as I'm processing... And so I stop writing (with intention this time), take a breath, observe what is happening, and proceed by turning on "Do not disturb" on my computer. Now I can work with fewer distractions and finish the task I set out to do. STOP practice implemented in 30 seconds. Productivity (possibly, hopefully) enhanced.
This wasn't the example I intended to share when I started writing, but sometimes truth just reveals itself :)
Hands down, my biggest STOP triumphs arise when I can put a little time and distance between an emotionally charged situation and communication. Here's an example from a few months ago. One morning I noticed my son took his Nintendo Switch to school, even though that's not permitted. Instantly, I am furious, because screen time triggers the crap out of me. I whip out my phone and begin composing a text to him, resplendent in criticism and impending consequences. I'm ranting with my finger tips.
And then, in the nick of time, I STOP. I put down the phone. I take several breaths, because my face and chest are hot and my breathing is shallow. I observe how activated I am. And I begin to think through how sending this text will play out. He's at school. If I send the text, he will spend the day emotionally charged and come home ready for a fight. It may compromise his learning or performance for the day. I recognize there's no action to be taken right now, and any communication will probably impair our ability to discuss or repair. I decide it can wait until later tonight, erase the text and put my phone away.
I also recognize it's a little unsatisfying in the moment, because I'm mad and I want to do something with my anger. But I decide just to be with it, and hope that the heat and urgency will wane, which it did.
This STOP practice required longer, both in the moment and in order to resolve the conflict. But-- you guessed it-- it directly contributed to better outcomes. That evening we were able to have a calm discussion. Turns out, he ended up telling me he took the Switch to school, before I brought it up. Our discussion built trust. I felt like a MILLION DOLLARS. Because I knew that STOP took discipline and intention and practice... and it worked like a charm! I was so proud, I'm even writing about it months later.
It takes practice. We've got a 10-minute STOP meditation that takes you through it, so you're ready when you need it. Try it. Repeatedly.