Stop, Breathe, and Think . . . It's Time






Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D.

Human-Ware, LLC





CARLSBAD, CA -- When I was a child in elementary school I learned, stop, drop and roll.   That s one of the drills we were taught to protect ourselves in case of an emergency.  I think they still teach it now, or a modified version, to our kids.  This Commentary is for all us grown-ups and expresses ideas on how to best handle our lives and ourselves during these very difficult societal and economic times. 


These thoughts have been festering in me for quite some time. Just think about it.  In the past number of years, we have witnessed and experienced the stock market crashing, well-respected businesses becoming corrupt, the tragedy of 9-11, threats and the actualization of war, fears of retaliation, terrorism in our country, and more.  During this time, I have watched, listened and learned more about people and their reactions - everywhere.


My work commute has become hazardous to my physical and emotional health. Since the beginning of this year, I have seen some of the most tragic, horrific accidents.  I have seen more car crashes in the past six months than total for the past few years.  I believe these accidents, in part, are due to our mounting life stress, and how we are choosing to react.  As the saying goes, rain happens, and we need to slow down.  But, we don t!  The other day, on the way home, seeing yet another tragic accident on the Interstate 5, and watching the other cars carelessly speeding around the scene, to get wherever, faster&.my title STOP, BREATHE AND THINK came to mind.


As a Psychologist and international authority on overcoming stress, I think about the human condition and how to make things better.  This article shares some of my recent thoughts.  It s about doing what we can do to save our sanity, ourselves, our Human-ware, our children and everything we hold near and dear.  Duck and cover and all the other safety drills won t cut it anymore.  We need to take a different type of action, one that is proactive, not passive and protective. 


And we need to take action, now!


In general, people are behaving badly.  Yep, you, me, and all the rest of us.  And yes, there are lots of reasons.  But, I believe it s time to STOP, BREATHE AND THINK.   Without realizing it, we are all adding to our life stress.  Each and every one of us, everyday.  We are generally more nervous and jittery, because it is a scary time to be alive.  This is true whether you are 5 years old, 50 years old or 500 years old; and all the ages I have missed in between.  I won t go into why, because we know.  Nevertheless, let s stop doing what we are doing that adds to the stress, by following a few simple checkpoints inside and outside ourselves and in those around us.


If you are participating in any of the following behaviors, STOP, BREATHE AND THINK.   Slow yourself down, and think it all the way through.  Here are some ways to avoid creating additional stress and potential tragedies:


þ     Tailgating or fast lane changes.  It s downright dangerous and causes every driver around to be extra nervous.

þ     Cheating others in any way at work or in your business, or not being honest.

þ     Not doing your very best at your job of parenting, work, or with your friends and family.

þ     Getting angry at traffic accidents on the highways that cause a back-up in commute time.  Seriously think about this one, and be thankful the accident doesn t involve you or someone you love.  But it does involve someone loved.

þ     Over-reliance on technology, and/or thinking it is foolproof.

þ     Flipping people off (or reasonable facsimiles of that behavior) because they are slowing down to make a left or right turn in front of you.  Remember, you need to turn too, sometimes.

þ     Not saying I m sorry enough.  This is so powerful and underutilized!

þ     Yelling at your kids as they go through their version of acting out normally due to their current experience of the world stress and how it touches their lives.

þ     Going above the speed limit, and not keeping double the safe distance between you and the car ahead of you - triple it, if weather conditions aren t optimal.


Stress affects us all.  We share common as well as individualized reactions.  Some common reactions are:


®    Being overly grouchy; thinking less clearly.

®    Processing information more slowly.

®    Eating less or more than is good for us.

®    Making more impulsive decisions and taking quicker actions.

®    Isolating ourselves from others in various ways.

®    Using alcohol and prescription medications, along with illegal substances, more readily to dampen and numb distress.

®    Blaming others more easily for almost any little thing that goes wrong.

®    Getting angry more quickly and sleeping poorly.


So, let s grow from this experience.  It is the best way to empower ourselves and rise above this pain.  With this latest Worldwide Societal Stress Era, here's what we can do:


Ø      Don't take things personally; others are stressed.  Be accepting and forgiving.

Ø      Allow each frightening moment, no matter how disruptive, to remind you that we are a global community.  We need to help each other now, more than ever.

Ø      Do things you know that soothe yourself more often.  Schedule them in.

Ø      Talk to others about your true feelings and really listen to theirs.  This is an amazing de-stressor.  When you listen with care, miracles can happen.

Ø      Recognize and appreciate the support and the outpouring of helpful information.

Ø      Behave more civilized, and with enhanced dignity and integrity.  Work at this!

Ø      Remember, this is both a new adventure, and a new era, we are all experiencing together.  We clearly can't predict all the bumps, potholes or curves ahead. We can, however, take charge of our actions and thoughts and enjoy the journey with our eyes open and our hearts at peace.  To do so, it is imperative we behave our best and feel good about ourselves.

Ø      Believe there will always be more "good" in life than "bad," and acknowledge that you can make a difference, now.


As the Nike slogan says:  Just Do It!


Confucius quotes:  The superior man is modest in his speech, but excels in his actions.


Remember, it is as simple as remembering to STOP, BREATHE AND THINK.   Thank you. My kids, husband, friends and fellow humans on this journey thank you too. Please share this commentary with everyone you know, love and don t know.


© 6-5-2003 Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D.

About the author:  Dr. Michelle Weil is a Clinical Psychologist, Professional Keynote Speaker, Corporate Consultant, the Miss Manners of Technology and author of the books TechnoStress:  Coping With Technology @Work @Home @Play which teaches you how to thrive in the age of high-tech, and The Mental Health Technology Bible.  From Good Morning America to the Wall Street Journal, she is sought after for her commentary on resolving the stress that is created in our lives.


Dr. Weil has recently authored a chapter entitled: Designing Boundaries for Balance at Work, Home & Play in the recently published book, Maintaining Balance in an Unsteady World (September, 2003)

Through extensive media coverage along with her role as National Spokesperson for MCI, Activision and others; Dr. Weil has reached millions with her message and her wisdom. 

She heads the consulting firm Human-Ware, LLC,, is an avid speaker, trainer and writer, maintains a private clinical psychology practice, and the mother of two children and two step-children.