Stress Management: S.T.O.P to S.T.A.R.T.


Ask anyone, “How are you?” and you’re likely to get “busy” or “tired” as a response. In fact, we’re so hopped up on hectic we’ve started to allow it to define not just how, but who we are. Our bodies and minds are held hostage by chronic stress. We’re like those snow globes you shake and fill with chaotic, blinding snow until we stop, breathe, and let the “snow” of our agitated bodies and over-stimulated minds subside-- allowing us to awaken to the landscape within.

Few places is this more evident than at work.

Whether you’re building a company, leading a team, or an employee of a large company, the demands of your work life can dominate your whole life. Right? And office-stress can haunt you outside the workplace in social settings and even follow you all the way home.

But hold on.

Stress itself is a neutral state. There is both “bad” stress – the kind we think of most often – and “good” stress. To a great extent it’s how we wear our stress that allows it to become “good” (helpful) vs. “bad” (detrimental).

Eustress is stress with a positive correlation – think getting the promotion, an exhilarating idea, your team is chosen for a great project. Eustress floods your brain with feel good hormones like Dopamine and Oxytocin – this helps you to focus and often improves your work performance. Distress is the opposite side of the stress coin. When your brain is experiencing distress, it’s flooded with Adrenaline and Cortisol, this puts you into Fight or Flight and impacts your ability to think clearly. Stress is your body’s way of regulating the outside world.

We cannot eliminate stress, but we can develop tools that allow us to manage our distress and promote eustress. S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. is one of my favorite techniques for this and is a central theme in my book Close to OM.

S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. is a pause in the action to help settle your snow so you can see things for what they really are instead of finding yourself blinded by a blizzard of agitation. It gives you space to shift from a knee-jerk reaction you may regret, to a mindful response that is skillful and progressive.

Read through the meditation below. You can follow the principles of this S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. acronym on your own anytime, anywhere. Sit comfortably or even lie down and give yourself a conscious timeout… whether that’s for 30-seconds or 30-minutes. (You’ll find an audio-guided S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. meditation at closetoom.com.)

S. Stop moving, fixing, fidgeting, thinking about the past or anticipating the future.

T. Take one breath at a time.

O. Observe. Is your jaw tight? Does something itch? Are you tapping your fingers or fidgety in your feet? What are you feeling? Thinking? Hearing? Just notice.

P. Pause before proceeding. Resist the temptation to jump ahead and move on. Let yourself simply be here observing for a moment.

Then…

S. Start to make space. Space is where possibility lives. Feel the capacity to create space in your body, mind and breath. Start with the space between your fingers and toes, between your shoulders and your ears and between your inhales and exhales.

T. Turn down the volume. Feel as though you have your hand on the volume knob of negative chatter, distractions and excuses and start to turn the volume down.

A. Accept and Acknowledge Accept where you are right now and start to acknowledge room for expansion and improvement without finding fault.

R. Renew Let spacious, quiet acceptance facilitate your new start.

T. Take Thoughtful Action

When we S.T.O.P we can let go of our tightly-wound opinions and destructive judgements, and S.T.A.R.T. to allow a more expansive vision of innovative creativity and strategic development come to the surface. It’s a pause for us to “be” instead of perpetuating the constant and tumultuous “doing” our lives can be reduced to. The anticipation of knowing we have to rush to reach our destination, meet our deadline or live up to imposed expectations can be a real buzz kill, making it nearly impossible to sit still. But if we don’t S.T.O.P. the madness, how can any of us shift our internal climate from turbulent to temperate?

One of the most powerful ways to lead is by example. Start your next team meeting with a one-minute S.T.O.P. to S.T.A.R.T. Take your chairs outside and S.T.O.P. the florescent lights and stagnant air while you S.T.A.R.T. to remember there’s a whole world out there beyond your computer screens. Take a weekend workshop as a team that inspires personal development and holistic health like this one, I’m leading December 6-8 at 1440 Multiversity.

There are so many exciting ways to S.T.O.P. the snow and S.T.A.R.T. with a fresh new attitude. Make space for you and your team to see and be seen, hear and be heard and to collectively create a landscape of ideas and inspiration. Oh, and by-the-way, when you S.T.A.R.T. this uplifting S.T.O.P. off at work, you’ll find it the perfect windshield wiper for the “snow” during your commute, when you’re stuck in line at Whole Foods and as a way to turn a flurry of Instagram FOMO into JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out.)

And the next time someone asks you “how you are you?” instead of your “busy” or “tired” response you’ll S.T.O.P. and S.T.A.R.T. an actual conversation.

Andrea Marcum is an author and yoga teacher who teaches around the world in both intimate and conference hall settings. Find her in Los Angeles at Yogaworks and working for FitPros, pick up her critically acclaimed book Close to Om, and join her online at andreamarcum.com.

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