Message from Dr. Newman: Stop & Think During COVID-19 Pandemic

First, I hope you all are well and doing all that you can to keep yourselves and those you care about healthy.  It’s a challenging time. 

It seems like every time I sit down to my computer there are helpful emails about how to manage the Corona Virus crisis. It’s hard to know how to add to all of those but it seemed important to share a message from RESPECT with ideas of ways that we try to help people manage challenges. 

One of my very favorites is the “old stop and think routine!”  I have used it hundreds of times with my own children, people in my private practice, for myself and the message is interwoven throughout much of RESPECT’s work.

  1. When you are experiencing a big emotion, STOP. My hunch is most of us are feeling lots of big emotions right now. In almost every case there will not be a need for an emergency response.  Give yourself time and permission to stop your mind and your body from having to immediately make a response. Breathe. Fill yourself with whatever you find peaceful. Let others know you are taking that time to figure things out. It’s totally fine and completely human not to know exactly how you are feeling or what you are going to do about those feelings in the exact moment. Give yourself a break. Literally.
  2. THINK. After you have taken time to stop and care for yourself, you will be much better able to decide what is happening. What are those feelings and what are they about? Taking time to think is important and valuable. Consider if you need to talk through your thinking with someone else. Do you need to get to step 3 right away? Be patient with yourself. Lots of our feelings right now are directed to very new situations and stressors. 
  3. HOW CAN I HELP?  This final step is a best attempt to have a positive and helpful response. It might not be the best response you ever make, it might need tweaking over time and you might need some help with it, but it is nearly always better than a decision made without taking time to care for your feelings and to give yourself time to think. It will almost always help to add decision making time to STOP and care about your emotions and THINK about how best to use your brain in ways to best HELP the situation that is challenging you. 

It is way easier said than done!!!! Emotions make everything so much more complicated! But they also give us great joy and appreciation for life and those we love!

At RESPECT we try to get audience members to use the “old stop and think routine” at all ages as a way to channel impulsive decision making and to better understand themselves and why they might make the choices they do. Kids of all ages tell us it helps them to remember to stay calm, not get into trouble and to make better decisions!  That’s pretty potent stuff for three little steps! In times like this, those steps might help us all take a bit more time for ourselves, reduce some stress, think more clearly, pace ourselves, reach out for help if needed and put things into perspective if we can. 

Please take care of yourself!

Patricia Newman, PhD
Executive Director, RESPECT