One of my core values is becoming more self-aware and joyful through ongoing mindfulness practices, In a wonderful book called Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan offers the “Siberian North Railroad,” or “SBNRR,” approach as a way to respond to emotional triggers (i.e., people or situations that make us really angry, frustrated, scared, or stressed) in a healthier manner:

S – Stop
B – Breathe
N – Notice
R – Reflect
R – Respond

I’ve been practicing this for several weeks, and it definitely helps. Here’s a deeper dive into the framework:

1. Stop. Stopping at the onset of a trigger is the “sacred pause,” Tan writes. “Let us reinforce the pause by focusing the mind on the breath, and not reacting to the emotion.”
2. Breathe. Try to take slow, deep breaths, and continue to do so for 30 seconds.
3. Notice. “We notice by experiencing the emotion in the body,” Tan says. “Bring your attention to your body. What does an affective emotion feel like in the body? In the face? Neck, shoulders, chest, back? Notice any difference in level of tension or temperature. Experience it without judging. What is most important at this point is to try to experience emotional difficulty simply as a physiological phenomenon, not an existential phenomenon. For example, the experience is not ‘I am angry.’ It is ‘I experience anger in my body.'” Do this for 60 seconds.
4. Reflect. Consider, “Where is the emotion coming from? Is there a history behind it?”
5. Respond. Bring to mind ways in which you might respond to this situation that would have a positive outcome. You do not actually have to do it—just imagine the “kindest, most positive response.” What would that look like?

Upon completion of the SBNRR cycle, Tan advises practitioners to return to the present moment by focusing attention upon their breathing. “Make a tight fist with your hand, holding any of your residual emotion there. Slowly open your fingers and let go of that energy. And bring your attention back, either to your body, or your breath, whichever your mind prefers.”

What are your chief emotional triggers? Do they occur at home, at work, or while scanning social media? Practice responding to them with this model, and let me know if you notice yourself making progress and feeling more joyful and productive.

Growing Your Strengths

I’m a Nashville-based writer, talent strategist, and certified executive coach. On this website, I primarily write stories featuring a diverse group of professionals whose examples of applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling will help you love your career and enhance your quality of life.

These characters face familiar pain points: nonstop change, accelerating economic and technological disruption, and the collective “noise” that grows louder each day. The impact, for these professionals and for many of us, has been confusion, distraction, and stress.

Until, however, each of these individuals chooses to do something new: practicing mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling habits, and growing them into strengths…strengths that respond to change rather than just react.

Strengths that you can develop as well.

Don’t settle for the confusion, distraction, and stress. You’re stronger than that, and capable of much more.

Choose to do something new. Today. Start with this post, check out my books, and join our learning community to receive free, exclusive content via email each month with timely guidance on applying mindfulness, learning agility, and storytelling.