Go STOP!

My challenging behaviours and oppositional tics, which I’ve written about before, are still very much part of my life. Confusingly, I’m usually able to manage major feelings or emotionally complex situations, but when it comes to tiny things, I often overreact. This is difficult for people around me and makes me feel embarrassed and distressed.

Ever since I was very young I can remember this type of situation and the loss of control that goes with it – knowing that whatever triggered the situation wasn’t important at all, and that I didn’t want to be behaving in the way I was, but finding it incredibly hard to stop.

I’ve recently been given a tool to help me manage these situations. Its acronym is STOP here’s what this stands for:

Slow Down – Interrupt the reaction and the feeling by doing an action or saying a phrase that helps you to slow down and create a bit of space. For me, this is going to be taking out-breaths as if I’m blowing my stormy thoughts away.

Take Note – Pay attention to what you’re feeling and name it if possible.

Open Up – Identify and open up as many routes out of the situation as possible so that you can make a choice about how to respond.

Pursue Values – Choose the route out that’s closest to the type of person you want to be. For me, my important values are kindness, teamwork and fairness.

I created an image to help me remember and connect with these steps.

Image shows a digital drawing created Touretteshero. It is a diagram illustrating the Acronym ’STOP’ she has used as a tool to manage situations she finds distressing and stressful. It is a scene of a blue sky, with a tree in the foreground. In the distance, in the top centre of the image is a red hot air balloon with ‘STOP’ in white letters written on the balloon. In the top left of the image are the words. ‘1. Slow Down’ This is surrounded by dandelion seeds dispersing and being blown away in the breeze. In the top right of the image are the words ‘2. Take Notice’ in grey letters backed onto a grey stormy cloud with a lightning bolt coming out of the cloud. In the bottom left of the image are a group of fluffy white clouds with the words ‘3. Open Up’ in the centre. In the bottom right corner of the image are four white lines of cloud underlining the words ‘4. Pursue Values.’

So far, I’ve only used this approach once, but it did make me feel able to calm down and re-focus my energy much more quickly than usual.

COVID-19 has drastically changed how we relate to each other, and it’s not surprising if frustrations, anxieties and tensions seem bigger or more explosive than before. I’m open to anything that could be useful in helping me get through this pandemic in an emotionally healthy way. So, I’m hopeful that STOP will help me navigate the next few months and beyond in a more peaceful and productive way.

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