During stressful moments and situations, it is helpful to have a framework that pulls all of the mindfulness elements together.
Psychologist and mindfulness teacher Elisha Goldstein, PhD, suggests using the simple acronym “PRO”:
P – Pause
R – Relax
O – Open to what matters in the moment
Pause is what we train for with our mindfulness practice — the initial step of noticing that allows us to interrupt our automatic stress cycle and conditioned responses.
Relax is how we counteract the physical manifestations of fight-or-flight in the stress response. Bring your attention to your breath and take one or more deep inhales and exhales. Try to consciously relax any place in the body where you sense tension or tightness. For example, spread and stretch open your fingers if you notice your fist is clenched; shake your hands and arms if you notice tension there.
Open to what matters in the moment means to proceed slowly from this place of awareness with a relaxed body and calmer and clearer mind. Doing so improves our chance of making a positive, informed choice, or simply being able to focus on the task at hand.
Here are some examples Goldstein offers for ways to “practice being a PRO at life”:
- Getting caught in the flurry of getting yourself or the family ready in the morning and feeling irritated? This is a perfect opportunity for pausing, relaxing, and opening to being with them or getting things prepared.
- Traffic got you down? Stoplights are a great place to practice being a PRO.
- Having a challenging discussion with your partner or kids? PRO.
- Worrying about something that you have no control over? PRO.
As Goldstein notes:
“What you practice and repeat starts to become automatic. Imagine if you could learn to get better and better at feeling a greater sense of personal control….”