How do you get the biggest health boost from a powerful pause?
Last week, I felt the relief that comes along with a chance to pause... a pause from visibly divisive politics, a pause from the fear of violence, and a pause from the feeling of shame about what executive leadership in our country has been modeling for the larger world community.
But before I knew it, I felt the familiar "itch" to get on with it. What's next? What else is going to happen? What still needs to be done?
It is easier to turn back to the familiar stimulation of the media or my to-do list, or even the stairs that need to be swept, than to sit with the quiet of an extended pause.
Noticing and savoring the "pause" - before getting on with it - has real health advantages in the workplace and at home, and is easier said than done.
If you, like me, recognize (intellectually) that pauses are important, consider these three tools to magnify their power.
Review and realign your values. Take time to sit with your top five values, review them, contemplate where recent events (before the pause) align or don't align with those values. Celebrate your willingness to do the work of walking your talk (when it has happened) or take a deep breathe and give yourself grace (if things have gone off track.) Or both. Recommit to your values by creating a visual cue for your desk or to place next to the coffee maker. Share your values with your team. Share them with your family at the dinner table. Or share them with me. Make the "pause" a time to reconnect and recommit to what matters most.
Face forward with intention. Take time to intentionally consider how you will walk your talk in the next month or year. Reflect on what worked for you over this past period and consider committing to doing more of that. Just as importantly, consider what felt itchy... too much time in the ER leaving you too exhausted to care responsibly for your body or your young child? Overworking as a way to deflect from the discomfort of current events or an uncomfortable relationship with your partner or young adult child? Or perhaps you notice that all of your activities are "me" focused and it's time to focus on reaching out, with an open heart, to the neighbor who lives alone or the young teacher who is struggling. Notice. Set an intention or two.
Fill your own cup. "What do I need right now to fill my cup?" A nap? A hug? A new book? Laughter with a friend or sister over Zoom? Bird TV? A small handful of vegan, fair trade chocolate chips? Time to read, uninterrupted and with a giant cup of coffee, the last 15 issues of HBR or Stanford Social Innovation Review? Or maybe it is a return to the meditation mat. Pay attention. Notice. Act. It is not only your right to fill your own cup, it is your responsibility.
Pausing takes practice. Consider that it is just as important to "be" as to "do". Does a powerful pause support your values? Does incorporating powerful pauses, on a regular basis, support your own full, intentional life?
Journal prompt to consider: How and where do I regularly incorporate "powerful pauses" into my life?
Actions, aligned with values, support optimal health.