When searching for mental health help on the internet, you tend to be met with very vague answers along the lines of ‘talk to someone’ or ‘go to the doctors’. While this is all well and good, many of us know that it can take a long time to find the right counselor and the best medication. In the meantime, you’re left trying to manage your mental health yourself without any real help or guidance. It can be hard to know where to look for mental health advice which is why I started this blog.
I know what it’s like to feel your mental health declining with no actionable steps to take to manage your emotions. This is why I have decided to write a series of posts on Managing Your Mental Health. This series will teach you actionable steps and advice on managing and improving your mental health.
Maintaining good mental wellness is an important part of our lives that is often overlooked. I’m guilty of neglecting my own mental health at times which is why I need to make a conscious effort to practice self-care and get into healthy habits to help prioritize my mental wellness. All the posts in this series are designed to teach you techniques and advice to manage your mental health. So, I welcome you to post no.1 in the series, all about The STOP Method.
The STOP method is a skill taught in cognitive behavioral therapy to deal with panic attacks, anxiety attacks, and stress. If you have ever had a panic attack or anxiety attack, sadly you are aware of the awful feelings that accompany it. An increased heart rate, inability to catch your breath, either becoming numb to your surroundings or having increased sensitivity to noises. Anxiety and panic attacks are horrible experiences that many people experience on a daily basis. However, the STOP method will help you manage the overwhelm and get your panic attack under control.
What Is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?
If you have ever had counseling in the past or looked into getting help from a counselor, you have most likely come across the term cognitive behavioral therapy or otherwise known as CBT. CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing your thought patterns and behaviors. That sounds really intense and quite scary but I promise it is not.
How Does The Stop Method Work?
Like most Cognitive Behavioral Therapy activities, The STOP Method works by taking an overwhelming problem or situation and breaking it down into more manageable, bite sized steps.
For example, say you decide you want to become a Teacher. When you look at the whole picture, your goal seems far off and potentially unachievable. Instead, break it down into smaller goals that when achieved take you one step closer to the final goal.
When you can feel stress building up or a panic/ anxiety attack coming alone, remember and implement the STOP method.
The STOP Method
The STOP Method consists of four simple steps to help you control a panic attack. Take some time to read these four steps and familiarise yourself with them.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, take a moment to physically stop. Take a mental and physical step back from your current situation to allow your mind to see and process your thoughts and situation more clearly.
Take A Breath
It is very likely that your heart is racing. The feeling of being unable to catch your breath can be scary during a panic attack. Inhale for 5 seconds, hold that breath in for 2 seconds and exhale slowly for 7 seconds. Keep your focus on your breathing and counting and continue repeating this sequence until you begin to feel slightly calmer.
Inhale for 5 seconds – hold the breath for two seconds – exhale slowly for 7 seconds.
Once your breathing is under control, take a moment to observe your body and pay attention to any unease you may be feeling. What do you notice? Is your heart racing, can you hear your pulse or do you have areas of restlessness? What emotions are you feeling? What is going on in your environment that may have triggered your panic attack? Sometimes you can’t identify what triggered you and sometimes you can’t or don’t want to think about it which is completely fine. Bring your focus to your surroundings to bring yourself back to the present moment.
Proceed With Purpose
Once you have got your breathing under control proceed with purpose. Identify what you need right now. Do you need to sleep, shower, eat, or talk to someone or simply leave the current situation. What feels manageable right now? Take things easy and look after yourself.
When To Use The STOP Method
The STOP Method isn’t just used for panic and anxiety attacks. It can be used when you’re feeling overwhelmed or are dealing with a stressful situation. It can be used when you are in a depressive episode as well. The STOP Method can be used whenever you feel like you need it.
It may take some practice and remembering the steps isn’t always easy. I recommend writing them down in a notebook or bullet journal in case you need to remember them when you’re on the go. The STOP Method isn’t a quick fix. Like most CBT exercises it will take time but it will help you manage and even stop a future panic attack in its tracks.
Let me know if you found this post helpful! Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if there’s any topic you want to be part of this series. Let me know what you’re struggling with and I will try my best to help.
If you are looking for further mental health help and guidance, check out this website here. It has links to your countries mental health services. If you are looking for more 1-1 help, search for ‘counsellors near me’ and have a browse to find a counsellor that works for you.