S.T.O.P. Skill (Distress Tolerance)

Today we will practice the S.T.O.P. Skill. S.T.O.P. is an acronym, which stands for:


Take a Step Back.


and Proceed Mindfully.

This acronym and these steps can be helpful for tolerating distress in the moment.

First, S stands for Stop. Don’t move a muscle. Don’t speak, don’t act.

T stands for Take a Step Back. This could mean taking a physical step backward, or, sitting back in your chair. But imagine the situation playing out in front of you in a fish bowl, and you are on the outside looking in.

Next, the letter O. Observe. Perhaps go through your five senses and observe what you notice. What do you hear? Maybe you hear a ringing in your ears. Maybe you hear people talking. Identify the sounds in your surroundings, and proceed, perhaps, to your next sense.

The sense of sight. What do you see? Notice and identify the objects in your surroundings, focusing on things that aren’t distressing to you.

What do you smell? Maybe you detect a scent in the air, or maybe you don’t smell much of anything.

Taste. Observe your sense of taste. Maybe you have a lingering taste of something you drank or ate something recently and you can still detect the taste.

Then, shift your observation to the tactile sense of touch. Can you feel anything? Like the hair on your head, or the clothing on your skin. Observe the sensations.

So, you’ve stopped, you’ve taken a step back, you’ve observed. Continue to observe, continue to notice with your senses. Begin to observe your thoughts about the situation. Focus on the observations, the thoughts, the feelings that aren’t distressing to you.

And then the letter P. P stands for proceed mindfully. This may mean proceeding onto another skill for distress tolerance, like the cold water tip skill. Or maybe you’re ready to proceed mindfully and respond to the situation, listening to your wise mind. Proceed mindfully.


Thanks for watching!

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