Timeout: The Importance of Stepping Away

04 November 2022

B&W image of an asian woman drinking tea and looking out the windowA timeout is not just for kids; they can be very useful for adults too. Giving your partner, friend or ex-wife a timeout may cause some issues (not recommended). However, giving yourself a timeout when you feel your emotions or stress levels are rising can be a very effective tool for calming down before you go and say or do something you might regret. As we approach the festive season, emotions can start to run high between divorced parents. It can be difficult to agree on things like where the kids will be and on what days, when and where the “drop off” will be, what gifts to give the kids, bedtimes, how much time is going to be allowed for TV and electronics etc. Dealing with these types of issues when you’re 'emotionally charged' is never productive. Granting yourself a timeout will give you the time and space you need to calm down and reflect on how you can handle the situation in a more productive way.

Rules to Follow When Giving Yourself a Timeout

When you give yourself a time-out, here are some rules to follow:

  • Let the other person know that you need to give yourself a timeout and ask them to please respect that. It might help to let them know that you are doing this because you care about your relationship with them.
  • Mentally and physically separate yourself from the person(s) that is causing you stress or high emotion.
  • Take several deep breaths - inhale slowly for 5 seconds through your nose, hold it for 2 seconds and then exhale out your mouth for 5 seconds.
  • As you relax, think about the person(s) and get clear about what they mean to you. Do you love them, care for them, want them to be healthy and happy, respect them as a mother/father etc?
  • Put yourself in their shoes. Try to understand what they are trying to say and why it could be important for them. Truly look for their intention behind their words.
  • Think about how you can approach the situation now that you’ve calmed down. What questions can you ask for clarification so that you can further understand them? How can you address their concern or the situation in a way that could be a win/win for all?
  • Go back and start off addressing what they and your relationship means to you. Ask questions to help you further understand their thinking and the meaning behind this issue, concern or situation.

We often listen to speak and don't listen to understand. When another person feels that you are truly wanting to understand why something is so important to them, they will often become less defensive and emotional. This can keep a charged situation from getting out of hand.

Keeping Calm is Necessary

Maintaining a calm, clear head is difficult when things become stressful. Whether it is an argument with your spouse, dealing with the needs of your kids, stresses from work, or some combination, staying calm may be the last thing on your mind. But that timeout doesn't have to be a physical one. Taking a mental timeout can be just as effectively, especially in a pinch. Take a few deep breaths and close your eyes. Try to clear your mind and focus on yourself for a moment. It can be enough to make it through even the most turbulent of times. This technique is especially helpful when you are out and can't afford to steal a moment away for yourself.

Don't Skip Out on Self Care

The most important thing to keep in mind is self-care. It can be the last thing in the world when life gets in the way. It feels like there are a million other things that require your attention at any given time. But ignoring your own needs is recipe for disaster. You may be able to put off the negative feelings for some time, but it will all come to roost sooner or later. Depending on how long you put those feelings off, it will either be a sparkler or a full-on fireworks show. Caring for yourself means having a moment to yourself. Self care comes in different forms and shapes depending on the person. But it all means collecting your thoughts for a moment, taking a deep breath, and working the stress out. Stealing time away for self-care can feel impossible. But without it, you will become a ticking time bomb. It isn't healthy for you and it certainly is not healthy for a relationship. Take time to discuss your self care needs with your spouse. Perhaps work out a schedule where they can take on the responsibilities for a while so that you can get time for yourself. That little bit of time may not seem like much on the whole but it can make a world of difference. Give yourself the care that you need so that you can give others the care that they need.