Today I spoke with a close friend who is in the depths of grieving the sudden death of a loved one. It’s such a poignant reminder of the fragility of life, the preciousness of love and the strength and vulnerability of the human spirit.
As we spoke she shared her deep desire to take time away from her responsibilities to grieve and heal. Yet, she’s experiencing internal and external pressure to “buck up” and keep going when what she really needs is to pause and integrate a significant loss.
During times of difficulty, it’s a natural response to want to withdraw from life’s demands and focus on matters of the heart and soul. We shouldn’t need permission to do this, but unfortunately, we live in a culture that doesn’t understand the importance of pausing (unless we need to pee during our favorite show).
It’s OK to Pause
I am reminding myself, as I’m reminding her, that it’s OK to pause, to step back from keeping up appearances, holding it all together and making sure that everyone else is taken care of. Sometimes we need to shut the world out and focus on self. I’ve noticed how hard it is for those of us who live in societies that glorify extroversion. Extroversion certainly has its place, but it can’t be center stage all the time without creating imbalance.
Why do so many of us feel guilt about slowing down, stepping back and taking care of deeper, less “worldly” aspects of our selves? We know our time here is precious, yet so often we sacrifice it to an ongoing stream of demands which hold very little lasting meaning.
Take Time to Rest and Replenish
Studies show that slowing down the pace of life helps to lower the risk of high blood pressure, improve relationships and even extend life.We know from research, but more importantly from experience, that it’s imperative to hit the pause button, to make time to rest and take care of ourselves. We have to regularly replenish in order to truly show up and to sustain output. It’s that simple. So why do some people seem so perplexed and even dismayed when we do it? Is it that they too long for a pause, but don’t yet know how to?
Be a Self Care Role Model
When we take time and expend resources on self-care, we’re not only ensuring our own well-being, we’re also role modeling an important lesson to those around us, especially our children. When we openly and unabashedly demonstrate the importance of regular time for introversion, rest and self care, (not only during crises, but on a regular basis) we’re creating a real-time antidote to the stress-inducing frenzy of a results-at-all-costs culture.
When we halt and become fully present in our lives and relationships, we experience more depth and meaning in the string of moments that make up our lives. When we care for our deeper yet more elusive psychological, emotional and spiritual needs, we unwittingly give others permission to do the same. And in the end, everyone benefits.
It’s OK to pause, to rest and take care of yourself when you need to. There’s time. The world and its demands will still be here when you’re replenished and ready to return. I can promise you that.