Ann Stromberg, Emotional Wellness Counselor
After spending so much time in self-quarantine and having downtime it may seem redundant to think about taking time to pause. Have you taken the time to pause and allow your mind to take a break? Spending time and allowing the mind to take some time off from our daily chatter creates a respite from the stressors in our current world. The chatter, Buddhists refer to this as the “monkey mind”, drives our mood usually without our conscious understanding. Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love describes it as “My mind swings wildly through time, touching on dozens of ideas a minute, unharnessed and undisciplined”. Living in uncertain times allows for an increase in distractions and decreases our ability to focus.
Pausing is taking time to tune out and be still. It is in this time when we slow down and listen to our thoughts that we gain insight into our deepest feelings and beliefs. So much of our belief system stems from our unconscious thought patterns often learned while we were young. The beliefs we internalized long ago are reinforced daily in our thoughts. Pausing is a simple strategy to connect to our deepest beliefs. Begin by setting aside a time to be present with your thoughts. Find a quiet space to be without distractions and interruptions. It may help to set a timer and always begin with a short time, just a few minutes.
You will be able to extend the time as your comfort level grows. Allow your thoughts to surface and try to listen without reaction. No matter the thought or its validity, just acknowledge it without reaction. After your time is up, assess and reflect on the thoughts that were present. Is there a trend? Are the thoughts valid? Is there something to be learned from these thoughts?
Continue to use your time to pause to evaluate your thoughts. Our evaluation of thoughts may identify some irrational thought patterns. We can use the information to determine if we are on the right track or if there may be some changes that are needed. The benefit of self-assessment is our ability to learn from our experiences through reflection. We can use our internal dialog to help us dispel incorrect thought patterns or to build on our positive experiences. As we grow in our ability to pause and reflect, our ability to resist judging ourselves will grow. We will be able to have a clear perspective of our thought patterns. Don Miguel Ruiz discusses in The Four Agreements the power of our words can lead us to happiness or misery.
The power of our self-dialog is strong. Using the power of the pause will help to alleviate anxiety and stress as well. As we feel anxious or stressed, take time to stop and listen to the thoughts driving the emotions. Begin to assess these thoughts and ask “is this thought valid” and “can it be changed”. This strategy will help take control of anxiety and lessen our reaction. We can’t eliminate stress or anxiety but we can change our reaction to negative feelings by recognizing the source. If it is valid, we can take steps to correct and if it is not valid we can take steps to eliminate it. Every time we pause and reflect we build more control over where our thoughts lead us. Our efforts and energy go where our attention goes and creating a path towards our best life begin with a pause.