How to Use the STOP Skill

The STOP technique is a valuable skill that allows you to break free from overwhelming emotions or impulsive reactions and instead, respond with greater mindfulness and purpose. This technique can be summarized in four simple steps, which are conveniently remembered through the acronym “STOP”:


The first step is to physically stop what you are doing or saying. This allows you to gain a moment of pause and avoid making impulsive or emotional decisions.

Take a breath 

Once you have stopped, take a deep breath. This can help you relax and calm down, and also give you a moment to focus on the present moment.


Observe the situation and your emotions without judgment. Try to be curious and open-minded about what is happening, rather than immediately jumping to conclusions or assumptions.

Proceed mindfully

After taking a breath and observing the situation, you can proceed mindfully. Make a conscious decision about how you want to act, based on what you observed and what your ultimate goals are.

Example: How to Use the STOP Skill

Let’s say you are in a heated argument with a friend or family member, and you feel yourself getting angry and reactive. You might start to yell or say hurtful things, but you remember to use the STOP skill. You physically stop talking or moving, take a deep breath, and observe the situation. You notice that you are feeling angry and hurt and that your friend or family member is also feeling upset. You also notice that your goal is to maintain a positive relationship with this person and that lashing out in anger will not help achieve that goal. You proceed mindfully, deciding to take a break from the conversation to calm down and come back to it later when you are both feeling more level-headed.

Final Thoughts 

The STOP skill can be applied in a variety of situations, from dealing with difficult emotions to making decisions in high-pressure situations. By taking a moment to pause, breathe, observe, and proceed mindfully, you can gain more control over your actions and ultimately lead a more intentional and fulfilling life.

Contact me

If you need help regulating your emotions or managing your reactions, please contact me, clinical psychologist, Dr. Christine Dickson through my website.

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