The STOP/WAIT practice is a first step to prevention in real time.

An immediate experience is a powerful way to feel the surge of the hormone, Cortisol when stress builds up past level 5 and you are still capable of handling stress or at low levels of pleasure Oxytocin is a hormone is in greater supply when you feel relaxed and confident.

The STOP/WAIT tool is an active response as you feel stress happening to you. The goal is to feel the process of stress escalating and to interrupt it.  At levels 4-5, instead of asking, “Why is this happening, how bad can it get, why now?  You can be an active participant in ‘What Happens Next’ if you can quickly know the answers to the basic questions.

MAIN IDEA: Focusing on internal and physical cues at LEVELS 3-4-5 is the key to PREVENTING most of your high level stress.

WORKSHEET: The most important levels to work with are not in the upper range. You know these too well. Instead, take a lot of time on the levels 4  – 5 get to know details of how stress feels when it is building up.  Instead of looking outside of yourself, focus on internal experience so that you have maximum awareness.  You will know more about WHAT is affecting you in Day 3 – 4 – 5. It is right there in your Biography!

EXAMPLE: Ivan is a fifty two year old construction manager who lost his parents at age 18. He went for a check- up and discovered that he was at risk for heart attack.  He is quickly learning the stress scale and using his emotional cues to track changes in his physical wellness..   Ivan was having difficulties with his younger brother in ways that made him sad and hurt but also incapable of having any resolution to the problems.

His levels 7-10 were filed with a horrible sense of sadness that the relationship was completely lost. At these higher levels he feels he has to, “just get away”.  He has a bad habit of going on long drives in the car after he has tried to feel better by drinking.  He has been in several accidents and luckily no serious harm has occurred yet.

He does not want to talk about the feelings with anyone else. He has just learned that at the higher levels all those hormones are increasing rapidly and he needs to, STOP/WAIT and stay out of the car.  Ivan now feels that he can take charge of the build up and that at level 6 when he feels sad and wants more than one or two drinks he has more self- direction.

At level 6 Ivan can stop the escalation of overwhelming anxiety from becoming fear and concentrate on the feeling of being just sad.  He has discovered by working with his stress scale that being frustrated at level 4 leads to trying to fix the impossible at level 5. Ivan is very good at “fixing things” in his job where he feels satisfied. The frustration when he can’t fix a problem will now be a warning signal.

STOP/WAIT I am beginning to be frustrated and sad.  Of course I want to “fix everything” – but I can’t.   Ivan has begun to interrupt stress as it build and he is staying out of the car. His “take charge and fix it” adaptation to stress is great at lower levels when he can use it to do his work and to help others.  At the upper levels he is pushed by the fear of more loss in his life.

You are not just tracking stress but learning to stop and interrupt the stress reaction in order to learn to change the process to one of resolution. Instead of continued escalation or the 4- 6 stress loop you are changing he stress cue into working self direction.   This first tool sounds simple, Stop/Wait… but it an be like trying to stop a runaway train.

CHECK IN EXPERIMENT: Try to catch stress as you feel frustrated at level 4 – look at your emotions and behavior on your stress scale. These are BIO MARKERS and are your EARLY WARNING SYSTEM to STOP and interrupt the pattern of escalating stress. You can change the hormone release in your brain as you use the STOP/WAIT tool.  This will become easier and automatic as you practice over the next few days.

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If you cannot get out of levels 5 – 6 – 7  PLEASE see you medical doctor. Then you can continue the program but it is just smart to get a good team in place.