The Pause

I’ve talked about ‘the pause’ many times in previous blogs but it’s always been something imbedded within a topic. I’d like to give it its own space here in this blog.

Brain ReminderThe pause I’m talking about is that moment between a stimulus and reaction. This is truly THE opportunity we have to control our reactions no matter how fast they occur.

Our minds and bodies are wired together in a diverse network of nerves that talk to each other and coordinate how we physically and mentally go about our day. The more we do something – physically or mentally, the more adept we become at carrying out that movement / thought / feeling etc.   The more adept we become the quicker those nerves fire and the pause between stimulus and response is shorter.

Essentially we almost condition ourselves to respond or do a certain thing without thinking about it, as if out of habit. This makes the body very efficient, spending less energy completing a task or thought and more able to move on to other things.

If however, the task / emotion / thought is a habit that is no longer serving us in best health, it’s time to modify it. A great way to do this is to find that pause and put a wedge in it. With that wedge we can consciously widen the space between stimulus and response until we are able to re-direct that response and deliver ourselves an alternate outcome.


Firstly we have to identify the feelings and sensations that precede a habit. We need to become aware of the stimulus.

Secondly, we need to create that space, to delay the automatic response and consciously become aware of what is going on and how you want to react.

Thirdly, it’s about finding an alternate response to the stimulus.

Fourthly, it’s about repeating. Repeating until the new response is the one we want.


Feeling angry while holiday shopping

1. Identify:

The crowds and lines make me feel tense and irritated. People are bumping into me and I want to push back or cut people off to get a head in line.I feel my breath shorten and my shoulders rise up to my ears.

2. Create space:

Stop, take a breath. Realize I don’t want to feel this way. Recognizing shopping during the holidays will always include masses swarming through the aisles. Recognizing this might take longer and I may not get everything I want done. Exhaling.

3. Find an alternate response:

Instead of getting angry, I’ve decided that enough time had been spent in the mall and I will wait patiently in the check out and then go home.

Example 2:

Family irritation

1. Identify:

Every time I get together with my mother I feel like she complains about everything that I do. I tried a quinoa stuffing and she insulted it before trying it. I can feel my face getting red and my jaw clenching. I instantly want to yell something mean.

2. Create Space:

I stop, breathe and think “ I see she is questioning my decisions and refuses to be open minded” and I feel awful and might start being mean. The purpose of us getting together is to celebrate the season. I don’t want to feel this way. She’s entitled to her own choices as am I, if she doesn’t’ want to try it that’s fine. I’m sure I questioned her decisions as she questions mine. Exhale. Maybe a few more breaths.

3. Find an alternate response:

I respond. “Give it a try if you want if you don’t want to I’m okay with that.”



Sounds easy? It’s not really. Breaking patterns that have been laid down as part of our neurologic fabric and reinforced a thousand times is not simple but it’s possible. With increased stress we tend to revert to old patterns when new ones haven’t really been imbedded yet.

So, we just need to keep trying and evolving while always ensuring we are kind to ourselves, especially when trying to create a change.


Sarah Kent, ND

Sarah-Kent-Head-shot-small-300x300Dr. Sarah Kent is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor specializing in your health.  She blends traditional knowledge with current scientific understanding to generate wellness within her patients. She has received specialized training in naturopathic sports medicine, applying the principles and tools of naturopathic care in treating athletes.

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