Hit pause and bring your life back in balance
Understanding self-care, inside out
“Practice the pause”— famously quoted by Lori Deschene, founder of online spiritual community Tiny Buddha, seeks us to pause, stop, and ‘create space’ before we act, respond or judge.
These words instantly took me to the pause our world was fated to take at a time when we thought things will never slow down. Ironically, it forced us to recalibrate our lives — we learnt to value ‘regular’ things like good health, family, friends, and cut off what no longer worked. Though not the most ideal scenario, the pause did help us to break away from autopilot mode, and made us rethink, readjust and realign our steps forward.
The acronym STOP will help understand this concept better:
S Stop what you’re doing, it breaks the pattern
T Take a few slow breaths, it gives us time to identify the trigger
O Observe the present moment, with no judgments, like you’re a fly on the wall. It helps us to dissociate from the problem, which is required for solution finding
P Proceed mindfully and with awareness
Do not underestimate the pause. Instead use it as a ‘power move’ to show dominion and grace.
1) The ultimate power pause
Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs did this masterfully. At a 1997 conference, Jobs was asked a rather insulting question by an audience member. Jobs took a 15 second pause (an eternity when you’re standing on stage), before answering the critic, his calm response filled with calculated pauses.
By giving himself time, he avoided a knee-jerk emotional response. He didn’t lose his cool, neither did he try to counter-insult the critic. He replied unhurriedly, calmly, pacing and leading the communication, winning the audience’s respect.
Even in his legendary product launches, Jobs used deliberate pauses as a power move.
2) Impactful communication
Taking pauses while communicating with an individual or a group, is an important tool to build an intellectual and emotional connect. It cuts monotony and allows the listener to analyse what is being said. It gives you enough time to emphasise on key words, and adjust your intonation for greater impact.
Watch comedian Russell Peters in action, observe his clever pauses while delivering jokes. He pauses, the audience connects, laughs and enjoys the punchline, before he continues.
Remember, it’s human nature to value things we have to wait for. So use your pauses impactfully in communication.
3) Mental break or breakdown
In today’s times, we confuse activity for productivity. Being busy, doesn’t equal productive. Mental fatigue eventually leads to physical burn out. You end up making more mistakes, have poor judgment, and lack focus. Taking a break is the wisest way to preserve your mental health. You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Arianna Huffington says, “We take better care of our smartphones than we do of ourselves — the phones are always recharged!”
How true is this for you? What does recharge mean to you and how are you going to fit it into your life?
4) Emotional mastery
This pause is what your yoga teacher is talking about! When stressed or angered, the body releases the hormone cortisol, which can weaken our immune system and negatively affect heart health. Breathing deeply and slowly helps soothe the fight or flight responses and brings us into the present moment. Even one deep breath in the midst of a heated argument can immensely help relieve the situation. Breathe, pause — using this crucial moment to recalibrate. It will help you step back and see the situation logically, unemotionally and assertively. When you take that tiny pause during an outburst, you are building your muscle to master emotions, a skill much needed for your mental and physical well-being.
Also, isn’t it charming to watch someone handle volatile situations with grace and finesse instead of blowing off the lid.
5) Break state
We all go through situations that overwhelm us. When dealing with intense emotions, it’s important to allow a pause to create space between the situation and us. In this time, our energy can shift from adrenaline pumped to logic and reasoning.
In psychology terms this is called break state — when you are breaking the emotional charge of a situation so that you can calibrate and re-enter with a fresh, grounded approach. Taking a quick walk outdoors, a glass of water during a heated discussion are powerful ways to ‘break state’. We can control the outcome of any communication using this power tool.