Supporting ourselves by pausing

Healing yourself, loving the world

I returned this week from taking a womb-surround birth process workshop. It was a life-altering experience for me and while I can’t explain it all here, I would like to share some of what I learned and how it applies to us as parents.

Our nervous systems are made to cycle in a regular pattern with an up cycle and a down cycle. If we are in a state of overwhelm, we either keep cycling up to a state of overstimulation or keep cycling down to a state of isolation. If we can realize we are on the edge of overwhelm, we can restore ourselves to balance and self-regulate.

“Taking a pause” refers to acknowledging and naming we are on the edge of overwhelm. In the group setting I was in, a person would raise their hand, interrupting whatever was going on, and say “I need a pause”. The group would stop, the person would name what was occurring, and then after a few moments of adjustment and settling back in, the group would resume. What this felt like emotionally and physically would be getting agitated, realizing I was getting agitated, announcing a pause, and then just letting my body take its time and calm down. It was remarkable easy to do.

At home, I am practicing the same thing. The only difference is that the children might not stop what they are doing, but I go ahead and announce my pause anyways. I pause, regroup and let my body assimilate whatever it’s reacting to, and then can rejoin the activity.

What makes pause so profound is that as the parents learn now to self-regulate their nervous systems, the children automatically calm down. We all know the experience of being stressed by something and the children acting more wound up than usual — we have such a profound influence on our families, that taking a pause can dramatically shift our dynamics.

So some examples of pauses yesterday for me:

  • I wanted my child to do something and she kept ignoring me. I started to get agitated, took a pause instead and relaxed. I was able to then go into interact with my daughter in a different and more effective way.
  • My daughter started talking about something on t.v. she had seen. The mention of t.v. gets me immediately agitated, and I wasn’t able to hear her. I took a pause, told her I wanted to hear her, reset and then was able to hear her.
  •  My husband was sharing a lot from work. I wanted to hear him but wasn’t able to absorb everything he was saying. I took a pause, asked for a minute to absorb what he was saying, and then we continued talking.

“Taking a pause” sounds like a mom’s time-out but it is much more immediate and shorter. To me, it feels like allowing our bodies, which move at a slower rhythm, to catch up with our minds, which move much quicker. The barometer of this integration is our emotional state.

At first, I felt stupid raising my hand but now it feels really good. I hope that others can try it — in whatever form it takes — and feel the support we can get for our nervous systems by just taking a moment to acknowledge and breath.

I’ll share more in my next post, but until then:

Happy Pausing!

Update Oct 7  2013:  When I wrote this I was still exploring different options to parenting and unschooling.  I now have very different views on t.v. and “wanting my child to something”.  The concept of pauses still applies.  However, the examples I gave are outdated.

Photo by Andrea Reiman

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Deborah Donndelinger

Deborah Donndelinger

I'm writing from Maryland, but my heart goes out all over the world. I'm cheering you on as you tackle the hard stuff, embrace the easy, and show up to help others.