One of the most important tools for taking care of your mental health is developing and practicing nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Feelings, whether comfortable or uncomfortable, are information. They help us evaluate situations, keep ourselves safe, connect to others and strengthen us.
While feelings are information, the automatic thoughts that comes with them aren't always true. We are sometimes actually "thinking our feelings" and ignoring that those thoughts are heavily influenced by our emotions. Emotion impacts our perception, attention, memory and reasoning. Distorted cognitions that we have told ourselves again and again feel real and can influence the way we move forward. When we take the time to learn ourselves and become acquainted with the connections between our mind and body and our thoughts and feelings, we can change this automatic response.
In order to disrupt the automatic process, we have to become consciously aware of what we are thinking and feeling. By knowing our sensations, reactions and unhelpful thoughts we can notice the process happening and disrupt it. When we take these pauses the process is no longer automatic and instead provides an opportunity for choice. The idea is that we gain awareness earlier and earlier in the process, able to disrupt it and create new pathways in the brain. The automatic process gets shorter and shorter. We are now consciously aware of our feelings and making decisions with that awareness.
As a result, perhaps we are calmer and more patient in our responses. Maybe we are kinder to ourselves or are able to put things into perspective and decrease our panic. Even cooler? When we incorporate this pausing into our lives, we have a decrease in stress and a more regulated nervous system over time. Whether it just means improved interactions with those around us, a shift in perspective that makes the situation feel different, or just helping you go out into the world with less stress, changing your internal process can change things around you.
Tips for adding a "pause":
Behind the scenes focus on developing awareness of your thoughts and feelings through mindfulness, journaling, therapy, or emotion tracking.
When you notice your thoughts are spiraling or you feel an uncomfortable feeling/sensation, pause. Do not push the discomfort away.
Do box breathing for 5 cycles.
Turn your attention to your body and notice sensation. What do you notice? Where? What words can describe the sensation? Can you name what you are feeling?
Be kind to yourself and move forward when you can.