If your morning starts off with the news, like mine does, a barrage of negative headlines can inch
your body toward panic without your even being aware of it. The weather reports a storm heading
your way, someone was murdered, and somewhere a war has broken out. Chronic bad news can
have profound effects on your body—your neck and shoulders tighten, your stomach churns, and
your whole being goes on heightened alert.
You don’t have to give up your daily dose of morning news, but we recommend that you start each morning with the following version of the S.T.O.P. practice, in order that you might have more balance and ease in your body as your day begins.
1. Upon waking, with your eyes open, take this moment to stop and pause. You can be lying in your
bed, sitting up, or standing. In the pause, just let your body relax and be still. Give yourself
permission to just be here, floating adrift for a minute or two, before you rush into your hectic
day of endless to-dos.
2. If you’re experiencing panic at this time, take a breath. Tune in to your breathing. If you’re
holding your breath, take this time to gradually let the air flow freely in and out of your belly.
Notice the air in your nose, in your chest, and in your abdomen. When your mind starts to drift,
return to your breath again, and be mindful of each inhalation and exhalation—the rhythm, flow,
sound, and sensation in your body.
3. Observe your body and whatever feelings or sensations are stirring in it. Where are you feeling
tension or tightness? Where are you feeling relaxed and at ease? Where are you feeling panic?
Take this time to acknowledge what you notice. Whatever your body is feeling—tension,
stiffness, dry mouth, shortness of breath—let it just be. Pay attention to your body’s experience.
4. Discover what you may need right now to take better care of your body and connect more fully
with your life. You may need a drink of water. You may need a morning of music or silence
instead of grim news. You may need a longer shower than usual. Think of how you can gain a
sense of inner balance and anchor yourself in this balance throughout the rest of your day.
5. Proceed with your morning and be present. Remember to reflect on what came up for you during
this application of mindfulness and what you learned about your body.
Feel free to repeat daily or at any time to help you maintain balance and ease in your body.