Stop-Drop-And Roll – A Self Talk Technique

How many of you remember being taught the safety technique, “Stop, drop, and roll” as a child. It’s simple. If you ever find yourself a fire victim, you must:

STOP in order to prevent the flames from gaining strength from your movements

DROP to the ground and then

ROLL to extinguish the fire.

Self Talk TechniqueSelf-talk is what we say to ourselves. It can be helpful or unhelpful. Here is a self talk technique that might help us control it. Our unhelpful self-talk is like fire – when we pay attention to our unhelpful self-talk, we force air into the flames and make them bigger and more dangerous. We don’t need to be consumed by the fire though! The fiery thoughts we say to ourselves when we’re making a mistake, or not performing to the best of our ability, or even just having an awful day can be “put out” by using the “stop, drop, and roll” method.

Once you notice you’re engaging in unhelpful self-talk, first

STOP. In order to prevent your thoughts from spiraling, stop what you’re doing. Take a breath. You’re in control now.

DROP the thought. Let it go. It’s mean, and likely untrue. Inhale deeply, then exhale, letting that thought go. Try to reframe the thought into something more positive.

ROLL with the new thought and keep moving forward.

When teaching my athletes how to reframe their negative thoughts, many of them reported that they struggled to come up with something more positive to say. There was just something so enticing about sticking with the flames.

“They’re more realistic!”

“They make me work harder!”

So, let’s think about that. You’re on fire. Literally. That would make you want to run faster, right? But, what we know about fire is that racing forward with it will only make the flames larger and hotter, and thus, you’ll get burned.

Little sparks can inspire us, but when the sparks get out of control, just like with real fire, the unhelpful thoughts we tell ourselves will burn us if we don’t try to put them out.

If you’re used to trying to perform with fire in your head, then this can be a hard thought process to shake yourself from. It’s so much easier to just stay with that thought, grit your teeth, and try to push through the pain. But in your head, you get to be the best coach possible. If we can STOP the thought hard enough, it’ll be easier to DROP it and ROLL with a new one. 

Some ways to STOP the thoughts:

Physically stopping what you’re doing and taking a big breath. Inhale. Exhale. Move forward.

Saying “Stop!” out loud or in your head, while picturing a big read stop sign.

Some ways to DROP the thoughts:

Imagine tying the thought to a balloon and release it to the sky.

Picture dropping the thought to the ground and letting it shatter.

Thought-stopping and reframing, like any of your other sport skills, takes a lot of deliberate practice. Using this technique can get you started on the process.


STOP your negative thought.

DROP the negative thought and choose a more effective, empowering thought.

ROLL with that new thought and move forward with your performance.

If you find yourself creating more sparks even seconds later… That’s okay! You can choose to do something about it. Stop, drop, and roll until you’ve got the fire under control.

Comment below with your favorite DROP & ROLL technique and how you’ve used it in your performance!

Struggling with those fiery unhelpful thoughts? We’re here to help. Take a look at more general Self Talk Techniques within Mental Grit!

By | 2017-10-19T14:04:55+00:00 October 17th, 2017|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sarah Hudak
Sarah Hudak is a second-year Master’s student in Sport and Performance Psychology at the University of Denver (Expected Graduation June 2017). Sarah discovered her passion for sport psychology after she began running in college. What started as a hobby to get fit slowly transformed her body and mind, leading her to eventually run a 50k trail race. Prior to becoming a runner, she lovingly referred to herself as a “chunky theater geek,” so this new identity in running inspired her to seek to understand what distance running and exercise in general do for one’s holistic well-being. Throughout her applied graduate training, Sarah has become interested in the process of developing resilience, and designing and implementing programs that foster the leadership development of student-athletes. In the future, she hopes to take on a role that allows her to work closely with student-athletes by providing both mental skills training and leadership development. Sarah is also passionate about the performing arts and creative writing. She attributes her creativity, flexibility, and public speaking abilities to the 10 years she spent in musical theater. She also minored in Creative Writing at the University of Central Florida, and has recently begun weaving her artistic abilities into the field of sport psychology by writing blog posts for her program’s page that focus on what sport and performance psychology look like in the “real” world. She was recently published on the Association of Applied Sport Psychology’s blog, and her Master’s project is a self-reflective narrative that draws comparisons between her time in theater and her new role as graduate student learning how to provide sport psychology services. She hopes to continue combining her love of writing and the field of sport psychology in this way.

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