Power Pause

By By Heath and Nicole Reed
[Savvy Self-Care]

The cool winter months are upon us, and nature and many of her animal and plant inhabitants are hibernating, resting, and taking pause. And yet, we notice many people actually accelerating their efforts and activity levels this time of year. Some of us might feel pressure exacerbated by the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings, increased family time, and added calories from feasting and celebrating.

It’s common for many to feel exhausted, stressed, bloated, or laid up sick and unwell. To stay healthy—and even fortify our health with the changing seasons—we’ve discovered the central importance of doing as nature does: taking pause. The seemingly simple act of intermittently ceasing work, effort, and all the doing in favor of getting back into the flow of nature generates abundant life gifts!

The Superpower of the Purposeful Pause

In her book Radical Acceptance, Tara Brach writes, “Through the sacred art of pausing, we develop the capacity to stop hiding, to stop running away from our own experience. We begin to trust in our natural intelligence, in our naturally wise heart, in our capacity to open to what arises.”1 Likewise, scientific research demonstrates the value of taking a “purposeful pause.” Dan Harris, investigative journalist and author of 10% Happier, notes purposeful pausing provides a superpower of sorts that helps restore one’s inner calm. Furthermore, Harris points to multiple studies that show intentionally pausing improves our ability to cope with stress, prevent depression, and generate the energy and freshness of thought to move forward.2 It’s a way to begin again, all day long, to give space to the fluctuating currents of the mind, body, and heart.

Reclaiming and Savoring

The magic of in-between moments holds a powerful, yet often neglected, elixir of rejuvenation. Our level and quality of focused attention is bolstered by intentionally taking breaks. If left unchecked, our minds run wild and often ramp up unnecessary tension during “in-between moments.” Notice what you usually do when you have to wait for anything or anybody. What are you thinking, feeling, or doing while you wait for your coffee, or wait for the light to turn green, or wait for a client to step out of the room? We invite you to co-opt these in-between moments and flip the script by making a new choice.

Mini-Power Pauses

Next time you have to wait for someone or something, consider renewing your parasympathetic nervous system by exploring one of these mini-power pauses:

• Take three deep belly breaths. Follow the sensations that flow from watching yourself breathe in and out three times—which, by the way, is shown to short-circuit the fight-or-flight response.

• Or perhaps you want to recommit to an uplifting affirmation as a touchstone to activating your in-the-moment presence. One of our favorites is to internally declare “and that’s over” as we complete our session.

• Sometimes a stretching pause is the elegant respite of choice. For a few moments, notice an area that is feeling tight, hard, or painful. Send your attention into that space as you discover a new way to move, breathe into, or stretch into that sensation—and notice how tension melts away.

The Productivity of Doing Nothing

If you’re curious, you can amplify the benefits of the purposeful pause by adding a few extra minutes. New York Times bestselling author Daniel H. Pink enumerates the benefits of perfectly timed power pauses in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.3 Science reveals that when we interrupt our midday routine with a purposeful pause, we upregulate and recalibrate our circadian rhythms, optimize our sleep cycles, increase our vigor, and reduce stress and emotional exhaustion.

Resetting with 10-Minute Power Pauses

Try one or more of the following exercises as you generate a multitude of mind-refreshing, body-softening, and heart-clearing benefits:

• Set your timer and get curious as you explore your unique flavor of a 10-minute Power Pause. This might look like lying down in a comfy restorative yoga pose or sitting in a meditative position with a guided YouTube visualization. Or, maybe you allow your eyes, ears, and nose to attune to a space in nature that tickles your senses, encourages you to daydream, and unplugs you from technology, work, and effort.

• Sometimes our mind wanders or we fall asleep during our power pauses, and instead of getting mad at ourselves, we allow whatever wants to happen, happen. We call this our Pausing Allowance, where we reimagine the inevitable distractions (or napping) that happen during power pauses as investments in our self-care bank account.

• If you love coffee like Heath loves coffee, you might like modifying your power pauses with the art of the Nappuccino. Science demonstrates that caffeine takes approximately 10–20 minutes to enter the bloodstream, so to optimize your reactivation, have a cup of joe just prior to taking your power pause. By the way, studies also assert that the physiologically optimal amount of nap time is at least 10 minutes but no longer than 20. In fact, you’ll probably be groggier if you nap longer than 20 minutes.4

What’s in Your Self-Care Tool Belt?

As bodyworkers, we routinely create power pauses for our clients to encourage them to feel more comfortable, spacious, and at ease in their mind, heart, and body. But how often do you create similar mind, body, and heart resets for yourself? Much like the tool belt of techniques we rely on in our sessions, we employ a similar tool belt of self-care approaches. No one self-care tool is appropriate in every situation, and this is why we advocate growing a cornucopia of varied power pauses you can rely on.

Your self-care tool belt might range from solitary moments to family time, from a few mindful seconds to hours of leisure. Explore being quiet and still, or make space for when it feels nourishing to sweat, expand, and play.

We rely on a myriad of structured and unstructured approaches that allow us to reset when we find ourselves in foreign lands, in the face of uncertainty, and when we are exactly where we want to be. We don’t have to limit our self-care to when we already feel bad. We can savor, digest, and amplify all those feel-good moments in the pause too.

Over time, practicing a myriad of power-pausing possibilities encourages an organic evolution and a resilient self-care lifestyle. What power pauses can you imagine trying out that are so easy and irresistible that it would seem silly not to do them?

The Natural Harmony of Power Pauses

Mother Nature reminds us that winter is the perfect time to deliberately take pause. Indeed, the surprisingly paradoxical effect of doing nothing yields priceless returns, as we recalibrate and harmonize with the world around and within us. We can create healing experiences for ourselves all day long by reimagining the in-between moments as opportunities to reset, refresh, and refuel. Power pausing gives us the space to catch up, integrate, and bring more of ourselves into the moment, especially when people, places, or things are feeling hurried.

Self-care is a practice, not a permanence. Ideally, we infuse our lives with structured and unstructured self-care variations that can fit into any moment. And, with practice, we co-opt these moments in favor of our well-being. In order to prevent trouble before it arises, and to stay healthy with the seasons, consider interspersing your schedule with a few minutes per week of fun, simple, and deliciously irresistible power pauses.

Heath and Nicole Reed are co-founders of Living Metta (living “loving kindness”) and want everyone in the world to enjoy the experience of befriending their body. The Reeds lead workshops and retreats across the country and overseas, including Thailand and Mexico, and have been team-teaching touch and movement therapy for 16 years. In addition to live classes, the Reeds offer massage therapy and self-care videos, DVDs, and online trainings, which may be found at www.livingmetta.com.


1. Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance (New York: Bantam Dell, 2003), 53.

2. Dan Harris, 10% Happier (New York: Harper Collins, 2014).

3. Daniel H. Pink, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing (New York: Riverhead Books, 2018).

4. Allison Aubrey, “Nappuccinos to Weekend Z’s: Strategize to Catch Up on Lost Sleep,” March 24, 2019, accessed November 2019, www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/03/24/705345481/nappuccinos-to-more-weekend-zs-strategize-to-catch-up-on-lost-sleep.