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Stress Management for Health Course

Thought Stopping and Stress


Chronic stress can cause changes in our thinking.  We start to be able to remember all the mistakes we may have ever made in our lives and we tend to ruminate on these thoughts and this can increase any stress we are under.  Many of us think that we are at the mercy of our thoughts and there is nothing we can do but this is not the case.  When stressed, we are often given advice from people who say just think positive thoughts, but if it was as easy as this we would do so, but its not that easy.

However, there is a proven psychological technique we can use to help stop stressful thoughts which is called Thought Stopping.  Like any other skill in order to get the maximum benefits of it we need to practice, practice, practice.  It's a deceptively simple technique and some may make the error of not using it because it may appear too over simplistic, but the reality is that it does work.  The Lung Association teach this thought stopping technique in their Stop Smoking classes to help participants give up smoking. 

Use this thought stopping technique every time you have a stress inducing thought.  Do not let stressful, negative thoughts go unchallenged.

4 Steps to Thought Stopping

Step (1): Notice Negative Thinking

Notice when you are thinking negative, stress inducing thoughts.


Step (2): Stop The Negative Thought/Thoughts

Stop the thought or image by seeing a big, red stop sign in your mind's eye and shouting stop, silently.  Consciously check you are breathing slowly with your diaphragm.  Breathe slowly in through your nose and as you exhale through your mouth imagine the word - "relax."   You can use an elastic band on your wrist and snap it against your skin, as you say STOP.  Ensure the band is not too tight.  Dr David Posen recommends you snap the band on the back of your wrist.  The hairy side, not the sensitive under side and do not pull the band too hard.  A small gentle snap is all that is needed.


Step (3): Replace the Negative Thought/Thoughts

Replace the stressful thought/image, by imagining a positive, relaxing thought, such as a tropical beach, in as much detail as you can.


Step (4): Return to Task


Click here to be taken to Stress Inducing Thinking Errors (Cognitive Distortions)