Permission to Pause
Theresa Polley
May 12, 2022
August 16, 2023
Self Care

Brené Brown's recent announcement that she and her team are taking a sabbatical really struck a chord with me. The constant challenges of the last two years have taught me that my need to rest and recover is non-negotiable. And while a sabbatical is out of the question for me right now, I know that I need to prioritize building in time to reset and recharge—to make a habit of taking a pause.

"The power of taking pause is well researched. Not only does pausing promote relaxation, a break from noise and doing it also refreshes and reenergizes you for hours. Taking time to just be still and quiet gives your nervous system a chance to regain balance." ~Cara Bradley

Last summer, my nervous system was on overload. It felt like I was having an anxiety attack 24/7. I'd wake up in a panic. I wouldn't be able to fall asleep because my heart was racing. My thoughts were scattered and I had trouble focusing. Luckily I was able to rebalance my nervous system through meditation, mindfulness practices and, most importantly, the act of taking a pause.

In order to give myself permission to pause, I had to acknowledge what was realistic. These acknowledgments have made all the difference in honoring myself with what I need.

  • I can prioritize what needs to be done.
  • I can set boundaries with the people around me.
  • I can ask for help when I need it.
  • I can leave things undone.

Yes, making peace with the unrealistic expectation that I "need" to get everything done immediately is the hardest step. It is also the most crucial.

Give Yourself Permission to Leave Things Undone

Leaving things undone can be:

  • Not returning that call, text or email right away.
  • Leaving the dishes in the sink instead of putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Making sandwiches for dinner instead of something more elaborate.
  • Closing your laptop at the end of the day, even if all the things on your list weren't completed.

As women, we continually take on more and more and that's usually when we start to lose ourselves. I experienced it first hand in my marriage and again when Mason came to live with me – it's been almost five years and I'm just now starting to get my footing and find myself again.   

4 Ways To Take a Pause

Taking a pause doesn't look the same for everyone, and there's no set time frame. Try to limit the phone use during your pause.

  • First 15: Start your day with 15 minutes of gratitude journaling, setting an intention, reading something inspirational, meditation, prayer – whatever soothes your soul.
  • Mini breaks: Throughout your day, take 5-10 minutes for reading, taking a walk, sitting outside, gardening, exercising – anything to take your mind off the things that "need" to be done.
  • You Day: Take a day to yourself. Whether it's scheduling a day full of activities you love or simply staying at home and finding stillness – enjoy your own company and tune out the noise.
  • Vacation: Take time away from the stresses of your day-to-day life. No checking work emails or Zoom meetings. No trying to plan your loved one's birthday party. If your family or friends bring you joy, by all means invite them. If not, try to get away by yourself, even for a short weekend retreat.

A pause is NOT: doing laundry, shopping, vacuuming or scrolling endlessly on social media. I believe thats called "stresslaxing" and it most certainly is not relaxing. In order to make self-care a priority - you must delegate, prioritize, make peace with leaving things undone and intentionally choose moments in your life to press pause on all that's going on around you.

Now, I recognize taking a pause is crucial to maintaining my mental, emotional and physical health. Some ways that I pause are:

  • Gratitude journaling before diving into my day - whether it's a day with Mason or a workday.
  • If I'm feeling stressed or overwhelmed, I'll ride my bike, pull weeds or read to break up my work.
  • Taking time to respond to additional responsibilities or invitations is an absolute non-negotiable. 
  • Spending a week with my family on the beach or taking a solo weekend getaway to one of my favorite spots.

I'll say it again because it was hard for me: give yourself permission to leave things undone and pause. When you unpause, you will discover everything you need to do is still waiting for you.

This blog is intended to provide helpful suggestions for self care and overall well-being. I am not a mental health professional. If you’re struggling I encourage you to seek the help of a professional. Find a Mental Health Professional | National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

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Theresa Polley

Theresa believes ALL women have the right to live life on their own terms. In 2004, she created Retreat in the Pines to give women a safe space to be their authentic selves without apology while finding the healing and renewal they deserve.

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