Since the beginning of the pandemic, life has changed in countless ways. You may appreciate this break to reset how you live and work. Of course, for many it is a scary and extremely difficult time of uncertainty.
Several years ago, a high-tech executive coined the phrase “continuous partial attention” or the new CPA. She observed that most people today pay constant attention to multiple digital connections so as not to miss anything. This means that our focus is on constant high alert and always paying partial attention, knowing that any second something new is coming.
As creatures on high alert, we are focused on, and trying to anticipate, the next thing that might come at us. This describes the times in which we live. Here in the US, the ongoing pandemic plus the intense outrage over systemic racism has created a deep divide and disruption.
As a result, you may be constantly paying attention to the news and experiencing your own bout of CPA. The trouble is this “always on” way of living can fray your nerves and make things even worse.
Whatever your situation, we encourage you to take as many moments as possible for intentional pauses during your day.
A pause, for even a few seconds, reduces your need to respond to the drama of the moment. Pausing builds your capacity to handle the anxiety that arises when fear, uncertainty, or fatigue show up to trigger the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT)
roles of Victim
, or Rescuer
Donna recently had an opportunity to practice an intentional pause. After a long day on emails and “zooming” she wanted to talk with David about something that had happened earlier in the day. David said: “I am really tired, honey. Can we talk in the morning?”
When David didn’t have the energy to listen, she felt a knot in her stomach and heard a whisper: “If he doesn’t want to listen to me, he must not value me.”
When Donna hit the pause button, she had the space to broaden her viewpoint about David’s statement and came up with three other possibilities: (1) David is so tired it would have been tough for him to listen. (2) I will laugh in the morning when I remember I thought David does not value me. (3) He rode 20 miles on his bike today, so no wonder he is tired!
Once Donna paused, she had the energy to broaden her perspective and then the freedom to choose, rather than react, to the Victim voice in her head.
When you pause, you have a better chance of considering other perspectives and new “stories” about what may be happening. The human compulsion to react will almost always hijack your best intentions if you are attached to one drama-filled story.
The stressful uncertainly that faces the world, and our lives, will take a toll on your health and relationships if you do not purposefully pause, breathe, and learn to settle yourself. Learning to pause for just a moment is one of the easiest yet most profound new habits you can build into your life.
A friend recently said to us, “During this pandemic and being at home more, I am learning to pause, slow down, and have healthier conversations.” What simple advice!
A pause can simply be a moment when you put your phone down, close your computer screen, and take a few deep breaths, or a brief walk around the block. Gathering a flower bouquet for your table or walking your pet are wonderful ways to pause. The key is that the pause, however brief, is purposeful and intentional – it is a nourishing gift to yourself.
During this time of great global disruption, give yourself the gift of an intentional personal pause as often as possible.