STOP Technique – How to Stop Overthinking, Stressing & Worrying (4 Steps that WORK!)

“Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man. But sooner or later the man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.”

Bruce Lee
gold-we live one life

Mindfully witnessing your emotions helps you separate yourself from them, and feel more in control – to move away from the emotional rumination, into the rational part of our brains by focusing on evidence and logic. 

If your negative emotions stay within, it will consume your physical, emotional and mental energy. 

Bruce Lee knew the powerful effect emotions had on behavior, to maintain his abilities as a philosopher and martial arts master. He knew positive emotions strengthened the spirit, while negative emotions weakened it. That is why he always worked on transforming what he felt at any moment. His goal was to dilute negative emotions or turn them into something that contributed positively to his development. He knew positive emotions are where personal strength resides.

Here is the “Stop technique” – a simple and easy-to-remember approach to channeling resilience and controlling emotions, rather than escalating or prolonging moments of stress when triggered in business or in little annoyances and upsets from everyday life.

Stop Technique


To be resilient, you must be able to detach from your habitual response. As a first step, to prevent a negative stress response and shift to a more controlled response, you must be aware of the cues

The moment you notice a potential trigger, stop and examine your reaction. Even say out loud “stop it”. 

2. Take a deep breath and smile
  • Breathe – Breathing is the only part of our autonomic nervous system that we can control and one of the simplest ways to decrease anxiety and stress. We can consciously change your response from stress to relaxation by changing the rate and the pattern of your breathing. Taking control of your breathing is like having a superpower.
  • Here is one of the many breath work hacks you can try:
    • Notice your breath and count what a natural breath cycle feels like. Try to match the length of your inhale and exhale.
    • Make your exhale significantly longer than your inhale. E.g. – inhale for 4, exhale for 8. Pick a number that works for you and stop if dizzy 🙂
  • Switch – Switch from judgement, stress, or other negative emotions to curiosity and perspective. Instead of saying “I am stressed / anxious / overwhelmed…” say “I am feeling [stress / anxiety /overwhelm].” YOU ARE NOT YOUR EMOTIONS.
gold-we live one life
3. Observe

When you catch yourself, ask: 

  • How Fascinating. Is this how I want to feel? Is this feeling helpful?
  • Will this really matter in …  5 minutes, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, and 10 years? 
  • Will my 95 years old version think that this mattered? Will I not regret having lost precious time worrying about what might look like futilities looking backwards? 
4. Practice being fully Present

The experience of this moment is here now, but this problem is not the only thing happening in your life at the moment, and this moment is not the only moment in your life. 

This expanded perspective enables to see new responses and patterns, and look for options and choices with free-will. The more we understand our own mind, the more we can both self-regulate our own emotions and reactions, and understand the minds of others with greater empathy, compassion and connection. 

Relax and release: surrender – not with passivity but from the strength of controlling your mind: 

  • Positive re-frame: e.g. – My way doesn’t have to be everyone’s way (e.g. if disagreeing with a colleague or losing patience when stuck in traffic or because someone is driving slowly).  Swap and replace the negative image / emotion with a new positive image / emotion. Our superpower as humans is to choose the emotions we want. (e.g. I feel joy / strength / peace; “I can’t cope with everything going on” “I am snowed under” / “under the water” => “This is challenging but I have great coping skills / I can handle this and everything will be alright.”)
  • Smile: You may be upset, unhappy at work, or going through a tough time. But a smile triggers a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier / better and shift your state.
  • Look for options and choices with free will: What else can I feel/ think/ do with what I have and where I am right now?choices with free will: What else can I feel/ think/ do with what I have and where I am right now?

As an inspiration, check outThe fish story from David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” 2005 Kenyon commencement. 

gold-we live one life