One of my favorite movies is The Shawshank Redemption. It’s a story about a group of prison inmates who become each other’s family and create a bond that only they can appreciate. When one of the inmates is released from jail after a terribly long sentence, he is expected to engage in what looks like a completely new world. As he attempts to adjust, he describes today’s world and says, “The world went and it got itself in a big damn hurry.”
As a full-time working mother and writer, I experience this hurried pace throughout my day. I feel anxious, frenzied, or panicked, constantly racing against the clock.
I can’t stand this feeling, but I succumb to it every time. I move faster, I breathe harder, and my heartbeats quicken so I can get “there.” And where is “there?” What does “there” mean and why it does it keep me tethered to this frantic state?
I’m sure many parents can recognize this rushed pace. Some would describe it as normal. A race against the clock, constantly seeking this elusive place. I knew this stress-induced condition wasn’t functional or good for me. But I surrendered to it every time.
Until I learned to pause. For me, pausing is when I consciously bring awareness to what I am experiencing in each moment. It is as if I am observing myself from above or outside of my body. This was hard at first. “There is no time to pause,” I would tell myself. In fact, pause isn’t the right word—initially, I had to yell, “stop!”
With time and practice, it became a pause. And eventually, I learned to find it with ease.
The simplicity and power in pausing
Once I surrendered to this practice of pausing, it changed everything. Calm, clarity, and balance were restored. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or with what urgency it needs to be addressed; I always pause. Even if it’s brief, it changes the way I proceed for the better.
Pausing is surrendering to the moment and accepting what you can and can’t control. It is observing yourself when a dilemma arises and taking one to two breaths while allowing your feet to feel the ground underneath you before you proceed. It’s giving yourself permission to take all the information in, ponder, and consider before responding. It’s the difference between a thoughtful response and a hasty reaction. It gives me the space to recognize my state of mind, what I’m feeling, and the impact this can have on my response.
How to handle rushed moments in motherhood
For example, if I’m running late, I’ll say to myself, “I would rather be a few minutes late than place myself in a stress-induced whirlwind”—AKA acceptance that it’s already happening and surrendering to the knowledge that launching myself into anxious thoughts will not change anything.
Another example is when your child’s school calls to inform you that they are sick. You’re hit with a bevy of thoughts as you take this information in: Your entire day needs to be reconsidered and you’re worried about your child, and for some, it feels impossible to manage, tethered to work responsibilities. The pit in your stomach grows and panic takes over. This is where you pause. Rushing through this will not change anything. Take two deep breaths. Stress is no longer in charge because you’ve surrendered to what is in that moment. You can’t change it; you can only decide how to navigate through it.
Let’s say you’re running late to pick up your child from school. This is a terrible feeling—I’ve been there. Stop and sit with the discomfort. Don’t drive recklessly, running lights and cutting people off in order to get to your child one minute sooner. It is not necessary. You are better off accepting that you will be late, reminding yourself that your child will be OK, and focusing on regulating your breath.
This same practice should be used when your kids or a loved one comes to you with a problem. The minute you’re asked a question about what to do, don’t rush to the answer. In many instances, we try to decide quickly. Pause, breathe, and then consider the question. Quick answers are not always thoughtful or thorough.
Pause, breathe, and then consider the question. Quick answers are not always thoughtful or thorough.
When you see or sense this rushed feeling come over you, direct yourself to stop. Remind yourself that you are OK and this situation you’re in has a solution.
Pausing ushers in clarity. A plan becomes obvious, and you can proceed calmly. While your situation remains the same, your mental state is healthier. You’re not experiencing abundant doses of cortisol being released, which, over time, can be toxic to the brain.
Choose to pause
For me, pausing is a habit now—a natural response when I sense the rushed feelings approaching. Once I got good at spotting the hurried state’s arrival, I refused to let it in, knowing and trusting that I did not need to feel that way to achieve a desired outcome. It was no longer necessary to proceed in that mindset.
Try to recognize when you feel rushed in your day. Stop and ask yourself, “What am I hurrying for?” Maybe it is to be on time. Ask yourself, “What would happen if I wasn’t on time?” Sometimes, the stakes are too high and a sense of urgency is necessary, but in most daily instances, this is not the case. If you find you are habitually late, that is a different concern that needs to be addressed. Rushing and panicking rarely lead to clarity, but pausing does.
Since adopting a pausing practice, my productivity has improved. I am grounded and thoughtful in my decision making, and I allow myself the space to determine what I need next.
Work on spotting this hurried state in yourself. Instead of handing over complete control to these feelings, simply stop. For each person, the process will look different, but once you create a habit around this, you’ll experience positive outcomes.
While the world might find itself in one big hurry, I’ll continue to allow myself the space to slow down.