Occasionally, we just need to pause.
When we find ourselves with a churning or anxious mind, we need to pause. When we feel overwhelmed or unsure, we need to pause. When our nervous systems are caught in a state of fight or flight, constantly waiting for the next fire that needs extinguishing, we just need to pause. When the days keep turning and are starting to blend together, or when what’s coming seems more than we can calculate the outcome of, we need to pause. Especially when we are reacting more often than responding, and when we can’t immediately remember the last time we felt gratitude, we need to pause.
Viktor E. Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
When we don’t pause, often the unpredictability of life can have us spinning our mental wheels for ongoing periods of time without us realising it. The puzzle pieces start to swim around our heads, we wake at 3am when random thoughts surface and our brains want to chat, or we lack tolerance for daily interactions or challenges that would otherwise not have ruffled or tired us. These are all signs that we need to make use of that most valuable asset available to all of us – our pause.
When we pause, a number of things happen.
Firstly, our egos take a breath and stop their defence for a moment. As our natural mental and emotional protectors, our egos are constantly primed to assess threats and challenges and respond to our best advantage. Our best advantage according to them (our egos) which, as we all know, is not always the most productive, thought through or adult response. When we pause and breathe, we send physiological signals to our bodies to calm a little. The longer we pause and breathe, the more of a physiological reset our bodies and brains take. Adrenaline and cortisol diminish; our brains start to think more rationally and, when we pause for long enough, physiological processes that clear toxins from our brains and bodies, absorb nutrients and oxygen and allow healing kick in. These are processes that are side-lined when we’re running in any kind of mental survival mode.
Secondly, when we pause and breathe, we allow space for new thoughts to drop into the space we create. Space that was previously fraught with too many choices and not enough decisions. Thoughts like gratitude.
Gratitude keeps us present. It retrieves us from where we’ve anchored our energy in the past or the future and centres and refuels us for today. It allows us to regroup and reconsider the perspective of what we’re dealing with – reframing it in ways that allow us to consider new angles we may not have recognised before we paused. Gratitude allows us to reset our energy levels, to breathe more deeply – taking replenishing oxygen deeper into our lungs than the shallow breaths we took before we paused were allowing.
There is nothing that tires us more than trying to live somewhere other than the present moment. The past is a murky place of could-of-should-of, and the future can’t be reeled in no matter how hard you try! The present moment passes us by continuously unless we focus on it and in it – and it is where not only our gratitude, but our refuelling comes from.
When we pause, breathe and assess, we allow ourselves to recalibrate on every level. Perhaps you literally just need a few breaths. Perhaps you need a longer pause. Whatever the case, there is nothing to be lost by taking an extra deep breath and reconsidering your perspective. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it. Your teammates will thank you for it. Those you lead will thank you for it.
How many reminders have you seen over the past number of months that nothing is guaranteed? How many reminders that tomorrow is not promised, and nothing is as certain as we once may have thought? Each of these is a reminder to live fully in the moment and to grasp what you DO have with both hands and a brave heart.
What would you miss if it wasn’t there tomorrow? What do you have that is more than enough? What have you been given that is uniquely yours to share with the world that no one else does better than you? What has your life experience prepared you for? What have your challenges highlighted is important to you? What are the varied ways you could respond to what currently lies in front of you? What do you actually need to apply your energy to, and what is distinctly not worth it? Who else around you could use prompting to pause and breathe?
by Christen Killick
May 23rd, 2022