The Practice of Pressing Pause

Pressing Pause

At the moment, I am in a life season where I need to slowwww down.

A truth I’ve been reminded of for years. But there’s a difference between knowing and actually doing. Most of us live in a society where speed and stress are an inevitable part of life. Our attention is constantly asked for. ‘No’ is negotiable. It takes courage to go counter-culture. Though for many years I tried.

I traveled to places with a peaceful pace, lots of sunshine and little stress. Living, studying, traveling, working abroad.

The travel lifestyle made me more relaxed, for sure. But no matter how far we travel, stress can always catch up in some way, shape or form. I still remember sitting with a group of surfers once, as they were serenely staring at the ocean, I was already starting to stand up wondering, what’s next? They had their laughs, I had something to reflect on.

 

The  real challenge however came when I moved back to The Netherlands, which I did various times throughout my life.

Each time, I was surprised by the speed at which we can adjust to, and absorb the culture of the country we live in. In both the positive and negative sense. Because, just to balance my critical look on the pace of life, I do love living in the Netherlands, and there’s a lot to be thankful for. It’s a comparatively stable and safe country, with a reliable healthcare system, plus you can drink water from the tap, there’s public transport that’s usually on time, and there’s no need to fear for earthquakes or volcanoes erupting. Just to name a few!

But  back to the theme of this blog, the hasty, hurried, stressful pace of life that we can all too easily get caught up in.

I did find an antidote over the years. No worries, it doesn’t entail digital nomadism, although it was fun for a while and I can always recommend it. In fact, the Covid-pandemic had the upside of opening up perspectives as to where we place our priorities. New businesses have been booming, it became possible to work from home, many people moved houses or even countries. 

All alternatives to a hasty, hurried way of life. Yet, after years of travel I can wholeheartedly say that we don’t necessarily need to escape to a different country, we just need to escape our external as well as our internal culture, our mindset, from time to time.

Yet, after years of travel I can wholeheartedly say that we don’t necessarily need to escape to a different country…

We simply need to escape our external and internal culture, that is, our mindset, from time to time. Not just on vacation, but on a daily basis. Simply said, we need to sometimes: Press Pause.  Because stress, to me, brings the image of having to keep on keeping on. We can interrupt the chain of events that make up most of our days, by taking short moments to stop moving and to. simply. be. 

So.. all of that said. Here below is a list of ideas for pressing pause during your day. It doesn’t really matter in which way you take a break, as long as you remember to take one.  At least once in a while. This blog post is as always a note to self too, so if you have any additional input or ideas on pressing pause, always welcome to share in the comments. 

 

Ten Possibilities for Pressing Pause

➔ Nourished by Nature – Study after study shows the benefits of nature on our mental, physical and emotional well-being, from stress-reduction to increased creativity, energy and the list goes on. But instead of taking anyone’s word, you can also simply remember the way you felt before and after your last walk in nature.. or simply plan your next one 🙂

➔ Daydreaming – contrary to what our teachers might have told us growing up, daydreaming can actually be beneficial. Whether you see yourself sipping a mojito on your next vacation or getting lost in the jungle of your thoughts, several studies show that it enhances creative thinking, problem solving and reduces stress.

➔ Petting a Pet – If you’re lucky enough to have a fluffy, furry or feline friend at home, you’ll be regularly reminded to take a break. Petting animals creates feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and serotonin, it also relieves stress and brings a smile on our face as well as the animals’, well, with a little fantasy from that daydreaming. Even if you don’t own a pet, simply stop to spread some love to one of the dogs you pass, you might strike up a conversation with their owner which brings up the next point. 

➔ Connecting through Conversations – one of the things I love most is to have conversations that connect. Deep, inspiring, meaningful conversations can be nourishing, stress-relieving, uplifting and so much more. Yet we don’t always have time for those and some coffee chit-chat with a colleague or a random conversation with someone you meet on the street can have the same effect. It can seem like we’re busy, but the moment we make time to connect, even if it’s just a few minutes, you’ll both feel instantly better. 

➔ Magnificent Music – On other days, you just need to introvert a little and be in your own space, and what better way to achieve that than music. Whether it’s on your commute, or consciously on your couch with your headphones and your favorite playlist on, or even creating a playlist for that pressing-pause-moment. I probably don’t need to remind anyone of the positive effects we receive from music, but sometimes we do actually need a reminder to take that moment for ourselves. 

➔ Soothing SelfTalk – It can be so hard to actually give ourselves that break, literally and metaphorically speaking. Not just by stopping what we’re doing during the day to press pause. But also, we are often our own worst critics. I once wrote a blog about becoming our own cheerleader by means of seven songs. It starts with the way we speak to ourselves. Catching ourselves when we’re critical and negative, and also taking time-outs occasionally to encourage and build ourselves up. 

➔ Stretch Away Stress – Take out your mat, put on your comfy clothes and simply start stretching. So much of our stress sits in our bodies and when we occasionally take a moment to stretch it all out, we might be surprised to find that there were some emotions stuck. It will make you feel so much lighter afterwards. 

➔ Dance Daily – Same thing goes for dancing. It can also help us release stress and stuck emotions. It also creates happy hormones and good vibes. No need to say more, I guess. 

➔ Mindful Meals – Making one of your meals a moment of presence is another way to press pause. Sitting down without distractions, slowing down, savoring each bite… it has a beneficial effect on your digestion as well as your stress levels. 

➔ Screen-Free Slots – Lately I’ve started an occasional screen-free Sunday and it has been bringing so much relaxation. A whole day without screens, no phone, TV, laptop, etc. Once in a while it’s a great way to unwind, but it doesn’t have to be a whole day, you could also simply schedule some slots throughout your day, or week, where you relax the old-fashioned way, without a screen. It may take some withdrawal, but I can highly recommend it.

 

 Again, it doesn’t matter how you press pause, as long as you remember to do so occasionally… 

I hope that you have found some inspiration and perhaps one or more ideas to implement. Let’s keep on reminding each other to prioritize pressing pause from time to time.  

Wishing you a relaxed rest of your day!

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