Graduate Medical Education Pausing Practices

S-T-O-P Practice

This is an informal mindfulness practice that can assist in shifting us from states of distraction and automatic pilot to a place of presence.  In addition to formal mindfulness practice, intentionally pausing throughout the day can help bring awareness to our habit of distraction and slowly build a new habit of attention and awareness.

As much as you are able, observe what is present for you with curiosity, without judgment.  Aware of our present moment experience just as it is, we may begin to notice our habits that cause stress.  With this knowledge, we are empowered to make healthier choices and decisions.

Instructions:  Just S-T-O-P

S = Stop. Notice what it feels like to stop moving, to stop doing. If you are in a safe environment, you may want to close your eyes.

T = Take a breath. Gently feel the presence of breath in your body. How does it feel to inhale? Exhale? Notice the quality of your breath. Slow and rhythmic? Shallow? When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the feeling of your breath.

O = Observe thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. What is bubbling to the surface? Is there tension in your shoulders? Are you hungry? Thirsty? Are feelings of irritation present? Joy? Are you caught in a story about something that happened earlier today? Whatever is present for you, can you experience it without judgment? 

In these moments of noticing, it’s not necessary to change anything, to make it other than it is. The experience you’re having is just that, nothing more, nothing less. You might even notice that in the brief time of noticing, all experience is shifting and changing; nothing is permanent.

P = Proceed. Step back into all that you have to do with greater mindfulness and awareness. How you step back in to the next moment, the rest of your day, is up to you. With this wider lens of awareness, you now have a choice.

If you prefer to be guided through the S-T-O-P practice please visit here.

Like this practice? Here are 4 brief techniques for cultivating mindfulness.

Reflection Questions:

  • Question 1

    What was difficult/easy about this exercise?

  • Question 2

    Where you able to observe without judgement?

  • Question 3

    Did anything surprise you about this exercise?

  • Question 4

    Are there situations in your work day where this technique could be useful?