We bring you a message of encouragement from our Counselling Department.

One of the most common emails we have received during this time is about people's finding themselves engaged in more conflict with those they live with. Although there are many reasons for this increased conflict, one of the main reasons is that as we find ourselves increasingly anxious and frustrated by this period, we easily project those feelings onto others. Secondly, we may find that as we may be carrying extra stressors, we have less patience and less tolerance with others, and tend to react to situations more easily.

This week, we would like to take a more practical stance and introduce you to the CBT technique called STOPP created by Carol Vivyan (2010) and adapted from Ciarrochi & Bailey (2008). This technique, when practiced, can often reduce impulsive unhealthy behaviours (i.e. lashing out, binge eating etc.) and even reduce one’s anger and anxiety. The process of the STOPP technique is very simple, but, when applied often, and mindfully, can be very effective.

When in distress (anger, anxiety, sadness) try the following:

S-Stop! Say this to yourself the moment you feel triggered by a situation or a person. This allows you to create space between the trigger of the emotion you feel and any reaction you may have.(Carol Vivyan, 2010)

T-Take a breath: Take a slow breath, (if it helps picture breathing into a balloon or a paper bag-imagine you can see it inflate and deflate). Breathing a little deeper and slower will calm down and reduce the physical reaction of emotion/adrenaline experience. Remember to breathe in through the nose, and out through our mouth - this creates the brain's reset mechanism. Focusing on our breathing means we are not so focused on the thoughts and feelings of the distress, so that our minds can start to clear and we can think more logically and rationally (Carol Vivyan, 2010).

O-Observe: Notice the thoughts going through your mind, notice what you feel in your body, and notice the urge to react in an impulsive way. Be aware of the vicious cycle of anxiety, sadness or anger (etc). Noticing helps us to defuse from those thoughts and feelings and therefore reduce their power and control.(Carol Vivyan, 2010).

P-Pull back / Put in some Perspective. Take a step back, Imagine yourself in a helicopter and look at the bigger picture, look at it from an outsider's view-this takes most of the emotion out of a situation as we stop taking things personally and are able to start seeing things objectively and therefore able to start asking ourselves objective questions. I.e. Is this fact or opinion? , could I see this differently? What am I reacting to? Is my reaction appropriate for what happened? (Carol Vivyan, 2010).

When we step back emotionally from a situation, and start to see the bigger picture, it reduces any distressing beliefs.

P-Practice what works / Proceed. This is the behavioural change of CBT. Doing things differently.Rather than reacting impulsively with unhelpful consequences, we can CHOOSE our more helpful and positive response and shift our focus of attention. Ask yourselves the following questions: What can I do that will be most helpful? Is my proposed response keeping in line with my values and beliefs? What action will be best for me and the situation. (Carol Vivyan, 2010).

I am attaching the thought challenge sheet created by Carol Vivyan, 2010 for you to use in learning how to use this technique. Creating this self-awareness and mindful and reflective process before reacting allows us to respond - rather than react - to situations and in most cases results in far more beneficial outcomes and less conflict.

Therefore we encourage you to remind yourself to STOPP this week.

The WGHS Counselling Department