Updated: Oct 8, 2022
Nobody is exempted from stress. That's the reality we need to face. Merriam-Webster defined stress as a physical, chemical or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. It is a physical or emotional or mental tension in response of a perceived challenges or threat.
Common sources of stress are either at work, school or even in relationships. Most of us can relate to the stress that our work brings to us. But this is something that we cannot simply drop or run away, We need to come up with a strategy on how to manage it.
Stress can be long term or short term. Long term stress is a maladaptive state that precipitates a hyper-activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which may lead to acute or chronic physical, psychological, and behavior impairment if left unattended (Campkin). Short-term stress, on the other hand, is defined as stress that lasts for a period or minutes to hours. Research suggested that short term stress should be managed as well.
When we experience stress, it is easy to react without thinking carefully about the situation - this is an autopilot mode reaction - with no real awareness of the situation. Reacting in autopilot mode can cause unexpected actions that might lead to unexpected outcome.
One approach in managing and reducing short-term stress is the S.O.B.E.R. stress interruption technique. This technique is about interrupting stress so that you can take a moment to pause and step out of autopilot mode before responding to the situation.
So what is S.O.B.E.R.?
1. STOP whatever you are doing.
When you are experiencing stress, stop whatever you are doing. When you take a moment to stop, you interrupt your usual reaction to stress helping you step out of the autopilot mode and keep you mind into the present moment.
Relax and allow yourself to be right in the present moment. For example, if you have an argument with your spouse, taking a pause can help you be in the present moment and not to react impulsively which might lead to regrets. When you start to experience stress at work, take some time to pause to interrupt the stress. Then move to other steps in S.O.B.E.R.
2. OBSERVE your body and your thoughts.
Turn now your attention to what is happening in your body and your thoughts. Observe for signs that your body is entering the "flight-and-fight" response or your thoughts are starting to race. Acknowledge any tensions you are experiencing, the emotions you feel, the thoughts that are going through your mind and any unpleasant sensations.
Pray and surrender your thoughts, emotions and tensions to God.
3. BREATHE in, breathe out and focus on the present moment.
Now, allow your attention to your breathing. PostivePsychology.com suggests to breathe in gently through your nose and hold for 3-5 seconds. Then, gently exhale through your mouth and hold again for 3-5 seconds. Do this for 5-10 times.
Breathing can help you to slow down your thinking and move your body out of the state of high alertness. Notice how stress leaves your body and how breathing helps you to be calm.
4. EXPAND your awareness to see the bigger picture.
Afterwards, expand your awareness so that you can look at the situation in a more objective way, seeing the bigger picture. Acknowledge any tensions left and let go of it. Expand your awareness further to your environment.
What have you noticed in your body, thoughts and everything that is happening around you at that moment?
Then, ask God what he is telling you in this situation.
5. RESPOND mindfully.
Now that you are aware of what's happening in your body, thoughts and everything that is happening around you at this moment, you will be able to respond mindfully, rather than in autopilot mode.
What should be the best response in the situation that you are facing?
It takes time to build the habit of responding mindfully in a stressful situation. Start small and try to practice this technique in a daily basis.