Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Take a timeout!
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
You are watching a basketball game, football game or another team sport. The score is lopsided, there is a fear of losing … the coach calls “timeout!” The athletes assemble, the coaches develop a new game plan, they perhaps change a couple of plays, provide encouragement … THEN … the athletes return to the game and try to remedy the outcome, playing with renewed energy, finesse, vitality and hope. Chances are, the revised plan, alongside refreshed athletes and newfound energy, WIN THE GAME!!
Sometimes in life, we just need a “timeout.” Circumstances may call for it, urgency may summon it and/or common sense may dictate it. Adult timeouts are certainly not about putting yourself in the corner or the “naughty chair” so that you can “think about what you just did.” Rather, a timeout can be a time of rejuvenation, refreshment and renewal. Let’s take a peek:
Have you found yourself in such a task-oriented, deadline-driven, time-squeezed lifestyle that you are feeling over-the-top stress? Have you felt that you are inches from being burned out, used up and spent?
Why not take a timeout? Take a break from the charged, over-stimulated busy-ness of the day/week/month and give yourself a chance to breathe, relax and refocus.
Now I know what you may be thinking: “I don’t have time for a timeout because I have so much to do, and that will only make the situation worse.”
I want to argue the fact that taking breaks from the action will give both your brain and body a chance to return to your to-dos with a more productive and efficient mindset. Take a brisk walk, listen to some calming OR rousing music, take a catnap or lose yourself in a mindless novel – whatever works. Then return to your tasks with a refreshed and enhanced energy.
Have you felt yourself getting heated and angry, knowing that your emotions are going from zero to 60, in mere moments? Have you been in such an emotionally charged situation that you know you are bound to blow your top?
A timeout allows you to simply remove yourself from the triggering situation so that you can cool off and gain a much clearer perspective. It also allows you to formulate a thought that is productive rather than shooting off a response that could be damaging or could “mow someone down.”
This part is important, however: Tell the person that you are with what you are going to do. “I need to step away for a moment to cool down, then let’s reconvene so that I can be respectful with my response.”
This works wonders with spouses, with children and with colleagues/friends/relatives. BUT, just like in the athletic scenario above, it is important that you return to finish the conversation, with your renewed energy and refreshed perspective. ONLY THEN can the “game” be won!
At the risk of sounding “psychobabblish,” I have to address this positive aspect of taking a mental timeout.
Honestly, our minds are noisy – and, sometimes, messy. We are almost always in active, perceptive, observational and thinking mode. Whew … that’s a lot of activity going on from the neck up, all the time.
Are you finding that your brain “won’t shut off?” Have you experienced jumbled thinking, darting thoughts and circular, loopy thought processes? Join the club!
But, we do have a remedy awaiting us: Take a timeout! Structure your thinking and the myriad expectations that are mounting in your brain. Make a list, reflect on the importance of each, and then prioritize!
Sometimes the minutiae can overtake the important, which, of course, evokes stress and overwhelm. Eliminate the inconsequential – or put it at the bottom of your list – and begin to think about and organize what is REALLY important to you. This kind of timeout can put you back in the driver’s seat of your thoughts by adding perspective and order!
YES! Timeouts are great tools! Taking a timeout ultimately will allow you to once again take the wheel because you are refreshed, energized, have a new game plan … and you are now set to WIN!