Timeouts get a bad rap. For most kids, a timeout feels like punishment and something to be avoided at all costs. However, the goal of a timeout is to give a child time to calm him or herself, and to reflect on behavior that needs to be addressed. It is an effective way to help kids take a break from situations that may be highly emotional and stressful. Timeouts have value in childhood and also when we become adults. Most of us would gladly welcome 10 whole minutes out of our days to just sit, think or relax for a moment. However, few of us take that opportunity. Giving yourself an adult timeout has many benefits and can make a positive impact on your ability to cope and function effectively.
Timeouts give you time to calm down.
Emotions are important and a normal part of life. They can sometimes be overwhelming and can flood the body and cause us to go into fight, flight or freeze mode. This can be great if you are being chased by a bear, but not so good when an interaction with a loved one is triggering this reaction. Giving yourself a timeout when you begin to notice your body reacting to a stressor and giving yourself the time you need to calm your body and brain can make a huge difference in the outcome of an argument.
Timeouts give you time to think before you speak.
Adding to the above, once you are calm, you are more likely to articulately verbalize what you want to really say to another person. If your body and brain are under stress, you are much less likely to be able to present your thoughts in a manner that is going to be received well by the other person. The part of your brain that is responsible for filtering thoughts is essentially compromised or offline altogether as your brain is in fight, flight or freeze mode. Once you have given yourself time to calm down, you can also utilize the timeout to think about what you want to say and how you want to say it.
Timeouts are a great treatment for emotional wounds.
It goes without saying that both physical and emotional wounds are painful. For a physical wound, taking the time to properly treat the wound improves healing. Taking the time to clean the wound removes debris and other organisms that may prevent healing from taking place. Taking the time to bandage the wound helps to keep out dirt, bacteria and other harmful organisms while the wound heals.
Our emotional wounds need the same treatment as physical wounds, but often, they are not given the time and care they need to heal. A timeout gives a person a chance to identify, reflect on and nurture emotional wounds they may be carrying.
Timeouts are a great break from life.
It is amazing how busy we are as a society. Between work, family, social and community responsibilities, it is understandable that people are as stressed as they are. Many people tend to not take breaks and if they do, it is often because it is forced by illness. The common belief tends to be that we don’t have time for breaks because we have so much to get done. I would argue that because we have so much to do, we must make breaks a priority if we want to efficiently and effectively meet all our goals and responsibilities.
When you give the body and brain a chance to take a break, you are helping to lower stress, which can significantly impact how much you can do and how well you can do it. You are also preventing the likelihood of a stress-induced illness, which will certainly prevent you from meeting your deadlines. The bottom line: This type of timeout will help you be more productive and efficient.
People are often surprised and skeptical about the concept that taking more breaks will make them more efficient. So put it to the test. Take 10 minutes for yourself three times per day to do something that helps you to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. After a week or two, re-evaluate how much you have accomplished, the quality of the work you accomplished, and how you feel.
Timeouts can be a time of reflection.
Our minds are noisy. Sometimes it may feel as though they never stop working, and, in truth, they don’t. The mind’s job is to constantly think and observe. Sometimes this process can get messy, particularly if worry and stress are part of the thought process. During a timeout, you give your brain a chance to focus your mind on one thing that is important to you. Ask yourself whether you are making this thing a priority or whether it is getting pushed to the side. If the case is the latter, make an action plan for putting more energy and/or time into that priority. When utilized effectively, this type of timeout can help you put things into perspective, deciding what stressors and issues in your life deserve your energy and which don’t.
The adult timeout does not mean you have to put yourself in the corner or the “naughty chair.” Instead it should be a time you can disconnect from life and the world for a set period of time to rejuvenate and refresh yourself.
Anastasia Pollock, MA, LCMHC, is clinical director at Life Stone Counseling Centers. She is certified in EMDR through EMDRIA. Learn more about her by visiting lifestonecenter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.