Do you remember being told to 'calm down' at a time when you were very upset? Can you recall how that made you feel? If you are anything like me, it was an infuriating sentiment. My mind reeled with questions and thoughts like, "Why should I be calm? You're not calm. You can't control me..." you get the gist.
Sometimes, being told to pause can have a similar sentiment to being told to calm down, and that is not the desired effect. Pausing is a learned skill that has the benefits of calming our nervous system, but we have to also acknowledge that it isn't like flipping a light switch.
Learning to pause takes practice, and to avoid revving up the nervous system by commanding someone to pause, it is incredibly helpful to build that skill in low stress environments. This normalizes the process and lets everyone explore how it works for them with an awareness that it may be different than for their classmate.
Let's Dive Into the Lesson
- Start with a gentle reminder/questions about what pausing is and why we do it.
Pausing is a way to give ourselves space internally, so that we can choose how to respond instead of reacting using our conditioned habits. When we practice, it can become a skill that is ready to use when you need it at stressful times. Practicing helps you figure out what works for you and builds brain connections that make it easier over time, just like working out builds muscle memory in your body.
For more information on how to explain pausing, visit our blog post, What Does it Mean to be Mindful?
It's always good to be prepared to share your own example!
Making space for this shows that it is a practice, and that we are all learning.
Again, it's good to be prepared to share your own example.
If you are unfamiliar with this, check out Dan Siegel's Hand Model of the Brain video.
If pausing means giving your nervous system time and space to unwind, are there other words you use to describe it?
Examples: resetting, chilling out, calming down, taking a break.
- Listening to music,
- Going on a walk,
- Taking a bath,
- Getting in bed and pulling the covers over your head,
- Watching something hilarious on YouTube, or
- Playing a sport
- Walking slowly and feeling your feet on the ground
- Listening to your favorite song in headphones
- Walking next to the wall or lockers and feeling the textures as you go
- Synchronizing your breath and your steps
- Stretching your body and taking 5 deep breaths
- Paying attention to the taste, smell, and feeling of a bit of food
- Focusing on the sounds around you
- Holding hands with someone in a comforting way, or simply connect with a friend however feels good to you
- Listening to all the various sounds in the room
- Feel how you are sitting in the chair - noticing your body.
- Focus eyes on something non-stressful, like a favorite mug or poster on the wall.
- Play with a fidget.
- Revisit intentions - What is my goal for class today?
Re-enforce the idea that it is good to practice skills that calm the nervous system periodically.
Is there a time of day it would be good to insert a pause as a class? Right as you settle in? Right before leaving? If it is possible to make a 30 sec-5 min pause a part of class, give it a try, and observe the difference it might make in the classroom. You can try all doing the same pause (today we are all going to doodle for 30 sec, or today we are all going to walk mindfully in in circle around our desk), or have independent pause and breathe time. Maybe there is a time when you need a pause, so why not all take one together?!