This is a variation of The Pause


In Hijacked By Your Brain - How To Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over, Dr. Julian Ford and Jon Wortmann discuss the scientifically validate "SOS" Process: 

1.  Step Back (break the current stress)
2.  Orient (shift to what will "reset" the alarm from its alarm mode)
3.  Self-check (always know where you are at, stress-wise)

The mind is in "alarm mode" only because it is doing its duty to protect us from a perceived threat.  If there is, indeed, no tiger or anything serious that we must deal with at the moment, we simply acknowledge the "upset" of the primitive mind, and assure it we are in charge.

One of the greatest producers of stress is the primitive mind feeling it cannot cope with whatever the danger is.  It needs to know that the higher brain is in charge and will handle things.  (Sounds silly, but it is true.)

While we might note what "conversation" is going on in one's head and write it down to deal with it, the purpose right now in this process is to "shut off the 'ringing'  alarm".  It is basically the same process as comforting a panicked child, who doesn't have a sense that it can control things, letting the child know it is safe and that things are being handled responsibly by the adult (the higher brain).  The child (the primitive brain) is not able to reason and take overall charge.  It has no sense of self-efficacy on its own.


Stepping back is simply noticing what is occurring rather than being 'in it" and not seeing it.  Simply saying "Oh, I'm feeling stress right now" will engage the higher brain (as discussed also in Kahnemann's book Thinking, Fast And Slow.  (Discussion is on this site at  System One And System Two - Our Gifts To Work With.)

Just "stepping back" is a "taking charge" action that actually comforts the alarm system - by itself!

The higher brain is engaged merely by asking a question. 

Since it is useful to be aware of how one is doing, we can "check in", using our higher brain to establish

1.  The level of stress
2.  The level of control one feels (less control will increase one's stress because it means there is less ability to handle any threat).

For the level of stress:  On a scale of 1-10, 1 being very calm and 10 being totally stressed, select the level of stress you feel.

For the level of control:  On a scale of 1-10, 1 being no control at all and 10 being masterfully in control with great certainty (don't expect that one very often), select the level of control you feel.


While rating yourself, as above, is an initial step in "orienting" oneself, we need to also do more to be sure we have "located ourself in relationship to our surroundings and what is going on" (definition of "orient"), essential to "determine our bearings" where we make ourself "familiar with facts, principles, or a situation".

The most direct way to do this is to simply "look, listen, and sense" the place you are in - notice the detail in the bark of tree, ones own palm, a picture, etc.  Or one that is reputed to help one distance oneself from emotion is to look far off into the distance and notice some detail. 

This works in only ten seconds flat.  It disengages the thought stream that is going on that is perpetuating the alarm going off (which is proven to still be going whenever we notice we are breathing shallowly and/or feeling tension somewhere in our body). 

A great re-orienting question that Ford and Wortman suggest is:  "What is the one thought that expresses what is most important to me in my life right now?" 

It is a good idea to have the answer prepared ahead of time.  Decide on something of value (even simply one of your top values) and think of it in some way:  in words, an image, an emotion, a whole scene (a "visualization").   Focus on this (or any one thing) and you'll "break the cycle" of stress. 

My "one thing":  "To create the most good I can for people in this world!"  (Nothing else much matters, though of course it's nice to have some comforts - but they don't matter much.)

It could be something in which you have great pride or something that expressed your value to the world or your spouse, family, etc.

They say you should do only one thought.  Don't overdo it or it will appear that you're not really in charge. 


Check your levels right afterward by rating yourself on the levels of stress and of control that you feel.   They should both improve. 


In most cases, basically, the primitive alarm system is sounding off based on lots of trivial stuff that has no true threat (except maybe life won't be as good as it might have been).  Most of what it is "reacting to" are just matched recordings that pop up in order to provide our brain's with info on what to do to handle survival.  

The panicked primitive brain overreacts regardless of importance or impact.  It is important, therefore, to establish clearly the truth of perspective that is at the other end of the spectrum:  How Big Is The Problem?  How Big Is The Danger, Really?  Mostly, It's No Big Deal.  (You've read this before, but reading is not enough - you've got to nail it down with clarity - and it'll take away alot of unnecessary concerns for the primitive mind!)

This is a variation of:

The Pause - A lifetime practice to utilize.

Read: The Lower Mind Associates But Does Not Reason - Heed This In Relationships - And also in life overall.


Stress Managment Contents, Links