Help to stop BPD anxiety

Use STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe what’s happening, Proceed mindfully of actions and goals) to help with BPD distress.

All of us experience distressing emotions and could use some help to handle them.  Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) tend to have more difficulty regulating their emotions.  Common intense distress instances, especially if you have BPD, are frantic efforts to avoid someone abandoning you, uncontrollable anger, and paranoia about negative judgement.  

In a previous post we talked about how you can IMPROVE the moment.  This post will focus on using mindfulness skills to slow down and STOP distress.   

STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe what’s happening, Proceed mindfully of actions and goals)

1) S is for Stop. 

You can’t help yourself calm down or solve a situation if you’re fully freaking out.  Stop.  Pause. 

2) T is for Take a breath…

…or Take a step back.  Take a deep breath during this pause to help you look at the information at hand.  

3) O is for observe what’s happening. 

What are the facts of the situation?  Now, what are you feeling?  What are you doing right now while feeling this way?  Observing is a mindfulness skill we will cover more in depth in a moment.  

4) P is for Proceed mindfully. 

Choose an action that will help you in the LONG RUN.  We will cover optional actions to take after we understand the “mindfully” part.  

Mindfulness skills can be helpful for slowing down and stopping distress in its tracks.  Mindfulness occurs when you observe, describe, and participate one-mindfully, non-judgmentally, and effectively.  Let’s break down these 6 elements to turn a distressing situation into a manageable one.  

The situation: You are rushing home after work, dreading traffic, and thinking about your critical coworker all at once.  


Observe what is happening: You notice your hands clenching the steering wheel, you notice cars around you are moving between lanes, and more.  What else might you observe in this situation? 

Describe the facts:  Your dog is at home, you are still driving home, you are 12 minutes away from home, you feel worried, your coworker said “get that report to me on time this week.”  Notice how describing and observing are used together.  

Participate: Instead of worrying about what your coworker thinks of you, just focus on driving home for right now.  How fast are you going?  Can you see the next turn?  What can you hear and smell right now?  

One-mindfully: Focus on driving now and what you need to do at home later.  Multi-tasking will hurt your ability to save time, learn, and avoid mistakes.  Fully devote your attention to the task at hand right now. 

Effectively:  You will be more effective at driving, writing your report, calming yourself, and tolerating your coworker if you use these mindfulness skills.  Ensuring you look at a situation mindfully will also help you choose the best action to take.  

Non-judgmentally: Because the language in our minds affects our perceptions, we must notice when our words are judgemental.  “That jerk just cut me off” will likely create a different reaction than “the blue car moved into the lane in front of me.”  Notice how the described observations above are using objective language.  Does anything sound critical or judgmental and need to be phrased differently?  


We will cover additional skills you can choose mindfully to help distract from distressing situations in another post.  What distractions do you find helpful?  Use mindfulness to fully engage in those distractions.  

Click here for a guided mindful breathing exercise used by a trauma therapist in Kansas City that can help anyone in moments of distress.   

These are just a few of many skills used by a trauma therapist in Kansas City that can help anyone in moments of distress.  If you want additional help, contact us today!  There are evidence-based treatments available to help you manage BPD. We at Heartland Therapy Connection believe we are all #betterconnected. We look forward to helping you!  

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