One of the most helpful and effective coping skills I’ve learned so far in regard to my ADHD is called The Pause. It’s exactly what you think it is and it is applicable to so many situations we face each day. It is all about intention rather than impulse, wisdom rather than emotion, thought rather than instinct.
If you are an adult with ADHD looking back on your life and can recall numerous times when you now think, “I wish I hadn’t said that,” or “Why did I agree to do that?” or even, “What the hell was I thinking?”, then learning how to pause can definitely help you.
The pause is a simple concept — even if introducing it into your life may prove difficult at first. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of situations, environments and occurences. Each new exposure asks us, either overtly or tacitly to make decisions about our next actions and how we feel about what’s happening. We are presented with stimuli and we must respond.
Pausing is the technique of inserting a few seconds between the stimulus and the response to ascertain what any situation is asking of us and whether our natural first impulse would be the right or wise course of action.
Pausing Helps You Manage Your Emotions
Many ADDers experience emotional disregulation and the pause is one skill that helps in this area.
The first thing to realize is that you are less likely to act and behave the way you actually want to when emotions are taking the lead. This is not to say that emotions won’t play a part in your eventual actions, only that there should be a balance between emotions and reason to determine how to proceed. When you act solely based on your emotions, you are more likely to produce a less desirable result.
In order to create the balance you need, you should insert a pause to stop emotions from controlling your response before it’s too late. One way to do this is to notice any physical signs of emotional distress or disregulation in your body. If you are angry, your muscles might be tensed up or you may feel a knot in your gut. Being able to pinpoint and acknowledge these physical warning signs brings them into your conscious mind and allow you to do something about them rather than allowing them to act on you. Instead of thinking, “I’m really angry!”, you might think, “My fists are clenched and my stomach is knotted up.” This kind of factual thinking can take some of the power away from your emotions.
Some people also find it helpful to pause by taking one to three deep breaths before acting. Breathing is a sure fire way to regulate yourself because the introduction of a little more oxygen to your body helps fuel your brain and allow it to think more clearly. I have also heard people actually saying (or mouthing) the word ‘pause’. No matter how you choose to do it, it will certainly help you to gain a few seconds to reflect and decide what to do next.
Pausing To Reflect
Pausing is also useful in a more elongated form — meaning that it is not always in stressful or rapidly unfolding situations where pausing can be used. Because ADDers often feel like they must go, go, go, they can forget that they need to occasionally stop and rest, take stock, equalize or decompress.
If you are one of these types of people, ask yourself these questions: How much of your daily activities are actually important? How much of it will move you closer to your goals? How often are you saying things like. “I just don’t have the time to….”?
These questions will help you determine the difference between ‘being busy’ and ‘being effective’. To pause in this context means to stop and evaluate what you are doing and determine if you are acting in the best interests of your goals and your time.
I could go on at length about the importance of planning, but I won’t beat a dead horse here. There are many ways to plan and organize yourself, but if you don’t pause and make the time to do so regularly, planning will eventually fail. So how do you commit to taking the time to pause for planning?
The easiest way is simply to set aside portions of time each day to do just that. Even if its just 15 minutes a day, most people can spare at least that much. Whether your preferred system is a simple to do list or a more involved long term planning tool, planning both daily and weekly is essential. When you do it for a while the benefits of pausing in this way will become self-evident.
For our first meeting of the 2016. we will be talking about the value of the pause and how we can implement it to better our ADHD lives!