In Praise of Stopping
Go, go, go, go….
Don’t be lazy.
Do, do, do.
These are the kind of messages we get from society, from the media, and from inside our own heads.
But what if it’s time to stop?
What if it’s time to pause, to have a break?
Can you stop?
Are you allowed to?
Sometimes you have a big “come to Jesus” moment, like what happened to Ariana Huffington, whose “personal wake-up call came in the form of a broken cheekbone and a nasty gash over her eye – the result of a fall brought on by exhaustion and lack of sleep” (from the blurb of her book, Thrive).
Only then do you realize you need time in your life to stop and rest and be.
But, do you even know how to stop?
And can you value yourself for being not doing?
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball – the death of a loved one, a diagnosis, an accident, chronic illness – there are any number of ways your life can change dramatically in a moment.
What if that new reality means you have to stop?
Even though you don’t want to.
Even though every fiber or your being resists the idea.
It could be your life depends on it – literally.
And yet stopping is brilliant!
Or it can be.
Stopping for a moment gives us time to be present to ourselves, time to think, time to choose what’s next, time to decide how we want to respond in any given situation. (This is fundamental to the Alexander Technique.)
It can take a life time to learn how to stop, as we work to stop old habits that don’t serve us well, as we decide to prioritize being over doing.
Stopping is as much a part of life as action.
Think of sleep.
Sleep is our daily (nightly?) STOP in the action.
An important time for our body to rest, restore and refuel.
Yet many of us struggle with it in some way.
We struggle to get to bed early enough to get the amount of sleep we actually need.
We struggle with falling asleep even once we’re in bed.
We struggle to get back to sleep if we wake up in the night.
Or we wake up too early!
According to the CDC, 1 in 3 Americans does not get enough sleep, and a 2018 poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that only 10% of people prioritize sleep over other aspects of daily living. This is despite the fact that the majority of the public says that getting enough sleep makes them a more effective person!
Naps are another form of stopping – a short sleep during the day (shock, horror!). They have been shown to mitigate the repercussions of a poor night’s sleep.
And yet, do you nap?
Do you have time to nap?
Would you? Could you?
[Last year I wrote Can You Nap Constructively? – in praise of the lowly nap!]
And there are all the other types of wonderful “stopping” we can do.
- STOP and have a cup of tea (or coffee)
- STOP and to be with a friend
- STOP and read a book or a magazine
- STOP and do something fun
- STOP and do Constructive Rest
- STOP and meditate
- STOP and look out of the window
- STOP and “do nothing” – just let your mind wander
- STOP the “should’s” and “have-to’s” and “to do’s”
- STOP doing
Allow yourself to STOP and simply BE – just once in a while.
Just for a moment.
Maybe this moment?
Action is great, of course. We all want to do things, be productive, be creative, achieve our goals. It’s an important part of life.
But STOPPING is absolutely brilliant.
And, perhaps paradoxically, it fuels all the things we do!
STOPPING is an antidote to the stress of chronic doing.
STOPPING is self-care.
STOPPING is necessary.
Relish it. Luxuriate in it. Value it. BE it.
You are free to stop.
How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward.
– Spanish proverb
As always, I’d love to hear from you. Your comments are welcome.
Interesting phrase normally used is to “take a break,” or to “take a lunch break.” Operative word in these phrases is “take!” Nobody can,will give you a break these days, generally including yourself. You have to take it!
Interesting. Words definitely influence how we respond to an idea. I’m going to play with “take a break” and “have a break” and see if I have an emotionally (and physically) response to them. I have a feeling that “have a break” might be more British, and “take a break” more American, but really have no idea. Thanks for the comment, Al.
In German is would be “Pause machen” which one could translate with “do a break” which is funny thinking that we do not want “to do” in the break ;-)!
Playing and paying more attention has been very interesting and helpful in my Alexander journey. I like the idea that you have to take the break yourself. Nobody else will give it to you.