One time when my son was little, I was reading him a story when he asked if we could “pause” the book so he could use the bathroom. At the time, I thought it was cute, and also that perhaps I’d been letting him play too many video games. But now I think it is kind of cool. He wanted to pause the activity so he could take care of himself, which is exactly what a pause should do.
One thing to remember is that a pause is not a full-stop. It’s just a small break from whatever is going on.
Learning to pause is an important, but often overlooked part of self-care. Pausing briefly throughout the day reduces tension and anxiety and makes space for pleasure and wonder. We can then return to the work of the day feeling happier and more relaxed.
Here are 3 powerful ways to pause
Pause to Check-In
The point of this pause is to briefly check-in with yourself. To do this pause, stop whatever you are doing. Take one deep breath to center yourself (if you can, you might also want to put your hands on your heart – it calms your body). Then ask yourself:
What am I feeling right now?
Next, depending on the answer, ask yourself one, or both of these two questions:
- What am I grateful for in this moment?
- What, if anything, can I do to make this moment better?
The first question will help you to notice positive things around you that you may have otherwise missed. For example, you feel be grateful that your students are happily engaged in the new fraction game you just taught them. Or you may feel gratitude for the beautiful flowers blooming outside your classroom window.
The second will help you to meet whatever need you might have but were ignoring because you were distracted or busy. For example, maybe you notice that you have a low-grade headache. Drinking some water and maybe taking Ibuprofen will make you feel better. You may realize that the noise level in your class has gotten just a bit to high. Dimming the lights will bring it back down again.
That’s It. Taking a deep breath and asking yourself 2 questions should take less than a minute.
I have set an alarm on my watch to vibrate 3 times during the day (mid-morning, afternoon, early evening). If I am in a place where I can pause, I do. If I am not, I just take a deep breath and move on with my day.
Pause to Savor
Have you ever sat down to eat a meal or snack only to discover a few minutes later that your plate is empty, but you didn’t really taste the food?
Maybe you were eating, but also scrolling Facebook, or watching TV, or chatting with friends.
The savor pause is all about slowing down to savor something good. The pause comes in because you have to stop and intentionally decide to have a savoring experience, otherwise while you may enjoy the experience, you will not truly savor it.
Think in terms of your 5 senses. Food is a great place to start. Notice how your food looks (bonus points for using your favorite dish) and smells. Take an intentional bite. Notice how it tastes different on different parts of your tongue. Consider the texture of your food and even if it makes a satisfying crunch, like when you bite into an apple or potato chip. While it is probably not practical or even possible to eat all your meals this way, you could probably manage the first bite or two.
You can do this with other things too. Savor the quiet time you spend with your kids reading books, a snuggle with your spouse, the first few moments of a hot bath, a beautiful sunset. Your favorite song. There are so many things in life that we could savor if we just pause and let ourselves be fully present.
Pause to Redirect
This is a powerful way to pause. You can use it whenever you are thinking an unhelpful thought or doing something that is not beneficial.
For example, if you have a goal of losing weight and one of your coworkers leaves brownies in the staffroom, you may catch yourself thinking, “Those look amazing! One won’t make a difference.”
By pausing, you can check your thought and redirect it to something more helpful like, “They do look good, but one actually will make a difference and losing weight is more important to me than eating that brownie.”
I used this the other day with my husband. It was a beautiful spring day, and we were on our way to take our dogs to the beach for a romp. We were discussing work and I realized that he had not done an important task that I thought he had (especially since I had asked him to do it the day before).
I was not pleased, and my first inclination was to make that clear in no uncertain terms. But I paused to think about it first. Nothing could be done about it now and berating him would likely put him in a bad mood. I made a mental note to check in with him when we got home and focused on the day. That pause likely saved us from an afternoon laced with anger and resentment and allowed us to enjoy each other and the day.
You can even do this with your internal monologue. When you catch yourself thinking something negative, pause and redirect:
- I’m so stupid, what is wrong with me? → Everyone makes mistakes. It’s not that big a deal, I’ll get it right next time.
- I hate my fat thighs! → My legs are strong and get me where I need to go.
- Well, that lesson sucked → So, it wasn’t the best, but now I know that my students need more practice with inference.
- I will never get all this work done → I can do just this one part.
- Why does she always criticize my choices? → Her opinions are just that, her opinions. I can decide what is right for me.
- I can’t do this. → I can do this. I just need to take it one step at a time.
Pauses are tiny tweaks. They don’t take much time, but they can make a big difference in your day. I hope you will try one or more of these today.
If you thought this post was worth your time, you could help this sprouting blog and earn my eternal thanks by:
- Sharing this post on social media.
- Leaving a comment.
- Subscribing to the Teach YourSelf Care email at the top of this page so you’ll never miss a post.
Thanks so much for stopping by!