How fast are you running each day, lovely mum?
Of course, I don’t mean actually physically running, but rather, rushing.
Life can be so fast paced.
I’ve learned to follow my son’s pace during the day where possible. I avoid over scheduling and give him some choice and flexibility in what we’re doing. It doesn’t happen every day, but it can usually happen for at least part of each day.
However, it’s like a switch is flipped within me, once he goes to bed. I’m all systems go! Racing around doing chores, work, admin and other things that need to get done. I’m not only thinking about what I’m doing now, but what I’ll be doing next. On my way to the kitchen, I deliver the dirty clothes to the laundry, collect toys that need to be returned to my son’s room, and even straighten the cushions! No trip is wasted!
I want those few child free hours to be SUPER productive, because, as you would know, it’s hard to get things done during the day. And, I certainly don’t want to be interrupted!
When my husband intercepts me in the hallway, and asks how I am or reaches out for a hug, I make it quick and keep going. But sometimes, he pulls me back and asks again, or hugs me tighter, for longer. I’ve realised, that in those instances, I often feel a wave of annoyance wash over me. “I’m in the middle of something!”, I say.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking?
How wonderful that my husband wants to see how I am or show that he loves me! Our relationship is much more important than the dishes, laundry, toys or cushions.
I realise that I should take a pause from all those things to connect. Pausing takes conscious choice and action, and appreciation of the importance of the moment.
Why do we feel that we need to be rushing all the time?
That we have to be productive all the time?
Our partners aren’t the only ones who are impacted when we don’t take a pause. Our own wellbeing, our relationships with others and even our children can suffer. In fact, our goals can suffer (more on that later).
When did we forget how to pause?
To just stop and be present for a moment? (I’m talking about seconds or minutes, not hours)
To NOT act?
Sometimes the best thing to do in the moment, is to take a pause. Why?
Take a pause: 12 benefits
Here are 12 good reasons to pause.
1. Think before you speak and act
If you’re anything like me (with a tendency for extraversion) you may have noticed that you talk and think at the same time. You work things out, out loud. This can be problematic at times, as you don’t always fully consider the potential consequences of what you’re saying.
Even if you don’t have a preference for extraversion, we all communicate on autopilot a lot of the time. Our experiences and habits, help us interpret and respond without much conscious thought. This is how we jump to conclusions, misinterpret and make incorrect assumptions. Taking a pause can help you see the real meaning and give you the thinking space to consciously choose what and how you want to communicate.
When it comes to your children, taking a pause can help you see what’s really going on, beneath their visible behaviour or the words they’re speaking. Pausing gives you space to see things from different perspectives.
Lastly, taking a pause allows you to recognise if you’ve been emotionally triggered and choose a more helpful response. For example, you might feel angry after being triggered, but rather than yelling, you could pause and intentionally choose a different response.
2. Allow others to think and speak
When you’re trying to connect with others, you need to let them speak. It’s the only way you’ll learn about them and show you are interested. If you find silence uncomfortable, you may prefer to fill it, however, if you pause for a moment, you might be surprised at what people will share with you (they probably won’t even notice the silence). You might get more information, or information that would otherwise not have been shared. Often, we interrupt before people are really finished saying what they wanted to say, and this can lead them off track, missing useful information.
Silence also allows others to digest things that you are communicating and really understand it. This is important so that you can be truly heard and understood.
3. Listen to your intuition
You intuition is your most honest and helpful friend. It helps you make better decisions in all aspects of life. It’s impossible to hear your intuition when your mind is always busy. Taking a pause allows you to tune into your intuition and recognise how it communicates with you. You can read more about how to tune into your intuition here.
4. Allow others to solve their own problems
We’re so used to solving our family’s problems and being one step ahead of them, that we often jump in so quickly, they don’t have a chance to try to figure things out for themselves. Maybe, with the best of intentions, you also do this to your friends and colleagues.
Try taking a pause, to allow others a chance to work it out. They might surprise you. Equally, they might be surprised that you’re not providing the answer for them (if they’re used to you doing so). Don’t give in at this point, encourage them to try and see what happens. You’re empowering them!
5. Make sure “yes” is the best answer
Do you say yes to every request for your time and energy and then later feel overwhelmed and resentful?
If yes, then next time, take a pause before you say “yes”.
In this pause, briefly check in with yourself to see if you really want to say yes, and if that’s the best choice for you. If you can’t work it out quickly, ask for a longer pause, so you can think it through or talk it over with someone else.
6. Slow down, calm down, breathe
When you’re rushed and overwhelmed, you might experience symptoms like shortness of breath, elevated heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, inability to focus, irritability and anxiety. Taking a pause, can help alleviate some of those symptoms in the short term and provide a quick way to recharge.
Breathing deeply while you pause, will quickly calm your nervous system. Try taking a long slow breath in through your nose, holding it for a couple of seconds, and then exhaling slowly through your mouth, for twice as long as the inhale.
You could even imagine that you are breathing in calm (or whatever feeling or thought you need at that time) and breathing out the feeling or thought you don’t want (e.g. worry, stress, fear, overwhelm, etc).
If you’re worried about getting all the things done, then remember this: the key to getting more done, is to slow down.
Reflection is a powerful habit.
We can reflect on the things that we’ve done well to boost our confidence and self-belief. We can reflect on the things that we enjoy and value to boost our mood and sense of gratitude. Reflecting on our mistakes is also useful, not as an opportunity to beat ourselves up, but as an opportunity to learn. Reflection can help you step back and look at the bigger picture, to gain perspective about the challenges we are facing. It can also open your mind to great ideas or solutions to problems that you’ve been trying to solve.
Even if you can only spend a minute reflecting, it’s still valuable.
8. Get people’s attention
This might sound counter intuitive, but when we’re so busy, and there is so much noise around us, a silent pause can actually draw people’s attention. Next time you’re talking to your partner, your children or someone else, and you feel like their attention has wandered, try taking a silent pause. Their brain will register the pause and they’ll pay attention to find out what has happened.
(Note: Unfortunately, this is not guaranteed to work when you’re saying something that your kids don’t want to hear and they are therefore ignoring you. Sorry!)
9. Be mindful and present
Mindfulness involves being completely aware of what you are doing and experiencing in the moment, without judgement. A busy mind finds it hard to be mindful and present.
Pausing provides you with an opportunity to do this. Use the pause to come out of the state of rushing, multi tasking or busyness, to quiet your mind, and turn your attention to the present and your experience of it.
Being fully present when you are interacting with others, will also build deeper trust and connections.
10. Practise gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a great way to utilise a pause.
Through her research, Brene Brown discovered that it wasn’t joyful people who were more grateful, but grateful people who were more joyful. In addition, many research studies have now proven that gratitude provides plenty of benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing.
Take a pause to acknowledge what you’re grateful for – the sun on your skin, the love of your children, a cosy home to live in, the company of a friend, and so on. When you intentionally notice the things you’re grateful for, you’ll start to see more things to be grateful for.
11. Check in with how you’re feeling and what you need
You’re always checking how your children are feeling and what they need, but how often do you check in with yourself?
Take a pause and check in with how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Are you hungry, thirsty, tired, stressed, tense, anxious or fearful? Are you happy, content, relaxed or fulfilled?
What do you need right now?
This is such an important form of self care, because left unattended, small problems can become larger, longer term problems. For example, when I work at my standing desk, I often find that my whole body is really tense. If I don’t pause to notice this and relax my body, I end up very stiff and sore. Similarly, you may reach burnout, if you don’t notice that you’re stressed on a regular basis.
Children smile about 400 times per day but the average adult only smiles around 20 times (40-50 if you’re a “happy” person).
Why does this matter?
Because smiling can can boost your happiness and mood. When you change your outer state, you change your inner state. Smiling can also lower your stress levels, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure.
Your smile can have a positive effect on others too. Smiling helps you connect with others and helps them to like and trust you. When it comes to your children, smiling conveys love, comfort, reassurance, support and compassion.
Sometimes, in challenging situations with my son, I pause, and choose to smile before I respond. This can defuse the situation a little, and helps to reconnect us. It also softens my response simply by changing my outer state (even when I didn’t originally feel like smiling).
Take a pause, and choose to smile.
So lovely, there are 12 good reasons to pause every day. You can do this multiple times per day. All it takes is a few seconds or minutes and you will see the benefits to your wellbeing, your relationship and your ability to live intentionally.
Nothing changes if you don’t take action! And in this case, I’m suggesting that you take action on not taking action (haha).
How can you incorporate at least 1 pause into your day today?