9 Reasons to Hit “Pause”

power of a pauseI’ve been a fast mover for as long as I can remember. My mind moves fast and my body follows. I get things done quickly, and finding efficiencies and shortcuts in work and life brings me great satisfaction. The thing I’m not good at is taking a break—or even just a short pause between moments. That’s really what this post is about—a reminder to myself and any other fast movers out there—of the value of taking space between moments.

The importance of pausing applies to many areas of life. I used to equate stopping and stillness to laziness; I generally thought it was a big waste of time. But really, it’s a way to recharge and reset your energy, which can actually help you be more productive.

I’m not talking about taking a year off of work to sip margaritas on the beach (although, I’m not opposed to that approach…) I’m just talking about taking a conscious moment to come back to yourself at certain points in the day. This can be in the very simple form of a deep breath, or in the grander form of a well-appointed vacation.

Here are nine scenarios where pausing can be helpful and rewarding. Some of these ideas are short pauses, others are longer stretches—but all are effective.

Before Entering a Difficult Situation

Before you pick up the phone to have a tough conversation or step into an uncomfortable scenario, take a moment to stop, close your eyes, and take at least three deep breaths to center yourself. Notice your breath and heartbeat slow down if nerves were at play. If you find your nerves and heart rate are still running, take a few more deep breaths or try this stress-relieving breathing exercise. When you’re able to step into a tough situation with a calmer mind, you choose your words more carefully and show up with more mindful reactions and presence.

Before Making a Decision

Feeling frazzled or indecisive? When your mind is everywhere at once, smart decisions (or decisions at all…) can be harder to come by. Stop what you’re doing, pause your thoughts, and come back to your breath. Proceed from your pause with a clearer mind.

If it’s a big, life-changing decision, take a quiet weekend away from the grind to consider your options and sit with the pros, cons, and various life scenarios.

When You’ve Got Too Much to Do

This is the one that always seems counter-productive to me—to take a break when you’re already overbooked? But, it works. When I feel overwhelmed, and all of my to-dos are swirling in my mind at once, I end up getting nothing done. Try “The Hand” exercise that I introduced in a post about multitasking. In this exercise, pausing brings awareness to the single most important thing you need to focus on.

When You’re Stuck in a Rut

If life isn’t going your way, you’re feeling stuck in a rut—or even if you just feel like you’re considering a new direction—take a break or step back from your everyday life. Find a week to go somewhere you’ve never been for an adventure, or relax in nature and contemplate the various directions you can take. A week on vacation or a time-out to do some soul searching could be just what the doctor ordered.

To Start Your Day on a Mindful Note

The morning pause is an attractive alternative to hopping out of bed and immediately attacking the to-do list. Before you even start your day, take a pause. Taking time for silence and stillness first thing in the morning is a powerful and present way to start your day.

Try the simple meditation practice the end of this post or this post to get you started.

When You Feel Stress Start to Rise

You know that moment right before you freak out about something? This is an important moment to identify. As soon as you notice stress begin to rise, before the anxiety takes over, stop it in its tracks by taking a time-out. Sometimes three slow, deep breaths is all you need to stop stress before it starts.

In the Heat of a Moment

When you’re in the middle of an argument or uncomfortable confrontation, it’s easy to say something you don’t mean. In the heat of a moment, before making a stupid comment, take a deep breath to check yourself. Ask yourself if there is a more conscious, compassionate way to communicate your message. Then proceed with that extra awareness in place.

When You’re at a Loss for Words

If you can’t think of the right words to say in a given situation, don’t try to force or control your mind. Instead, take a mental pause. Once your mind is clear, the words will come.

The concept of weaving conscious pauses throughout one’s day has many nicknames: “The sacred pause,” “the purposeful pause,” “space to breath,” “time out.” Call it whatever you’d like, but if back-to-back meetings, long to-do lists, swirling thoughts, and everyday chaos is your norm, you may need to grasp the simplicity of slowing down and finding that space between moments.

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Melissa Eisler

Melissa Eisler, MA, PCC, is an ICF certified executive coach. She partners with leaders to develop their systems thinking, resilience, strategic communication skills, and executive presence in order to reach individual, team, and organizational goals. She blends more than 15 years of experience in leadership positions in the corporate world, with her master’s degree in organizational leadership and extensive background in mindfulness to help her clients master their leadership skills and steer their teams through challenges and change. Learn more about Melissa here.


  1. S King on June 1, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Thank you for this beautiful piece, expansive like the start night sky. I suggest learning more about Islam. The five times daily prayer are perfect pauses more beneficial, refreshing, centering, loving, amazing than I can say..

    • Melissa Eisler on June 3, 2016 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words!

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Melissa is the founder and executive coach at Wide Lens Leadership and a Partner at Evolution. As an ICF Certified Executive Coach with a Master's degree in organizational leadership, Melissa has coached hundreds of leaders ranging from C-suite to entrepreneur, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, and across diverse industries. Her work focuses on helping high-performing senior leaders and their teams magnify impact by building trust, collaboration, accountability, and healthy communication skills.