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Practice: S.T.O.P.

May 06, 2021
Mindful U

Practice: S.T.O.P.

Mindfulness instructors Trinh Mai and Rob Davies guide us through S.T.O.P., a simple mindfulness practice to help mitigate our stress response.

Trinh Mai and Rob Davies

Sep. 20, 2018

About this practice

How long will this take? As little as 10-15 seconds, or as long as 5 minutes.

How do I prepare? Find a comfortable place or position where you can stand or sit for a few minutes. You may want to gently close your eyes or soften and lower your gaze.

How should I feel? Pausing throughout the day can provide the mind and nervous system with needed breaks, bring awareness to our habit of distraction, and slowly build a new habit of intention and awareness.

What is S.T.O.P.?

S.T.O.P. is an acronym that stands for:

S — Stop, or pause

T — Take a breath

O — Observe the body, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical sensations

P — Proceed with more awareness

S.T.O.P. is an informal mindfulness practice that allows us to take a breath and check in to see how we're doing. It can assist us in shifting from states of distraction and automatic pilot to being present and intentional.

Not sure what to expect? Annotated transcript from Trinh Mai's S.T.O.P. guided meditation below.

Please note: If you experience moderate to high levels of discomfort or emotional and/or physical distress, stop and consult with a qualified or certified mindfulness teacher, mental health provider, or medical practitioner.

Where to begin

  • Stopand notice what it feels like to stop moving, to stop doing.
  • Take a breathor two and feel what it's like to be alive and breathing. How does it feel to inhale and exhale? Notice the quality of your breath. Is it slow and rhythmic or shallow?
  • Observethoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, with as much openness and curiosity as possible. There's no need to judge, analyze, or fix what you find in this moment.
  • What is bubbling to the surface for you?Is there tension in your shoulders? Are you hungry or thirsty? Where are the areas of your body that feel good or at ease? Are there any emotions like impatience, irritation, joy, or calm present? Where do you feel these feelings, and how are they making themselves known to you?
  • Are there thoughts floating in the mind?Are you caught in a story about something that happened earlier today or perhaps planning for what's next? Whatever's present for you right now, simply acknowledge it or nod to it, as if you're expressing, "I see you, and it's OK."
  • Now proceed, stepping into the next moment with greater awareness and intention, perhaps asking yourself, "What is most important right now? What deserves my attention right now?" Notice what is bubbling to the surface for you and then use that as a guide to proceed with awareness and intention into the next moment.

Cite this content: Trinh Mai and Rob Davies, "Practice: S.T.O.P.", Accelerate University of Utah Health curriculum, Sep. 20, 2018. Available at:


Trinh Mai

Associate Professor/Lecturer, College of Social Work, Mindfulness Instructor, University of Utah Health

Rob Davies

Licensed psychologist, GME Wellness Director, University of Utah Health