Pauses for Peak Performance
In this age of overload, with an endless waterfall of to-do's and anxiety-producing information, your Survival Brain will continually take the reins and tell you that you don't have time to pause. This is a trap.
Because your brain and nervous system feel threatened (due to overwhelm) your instinct will be: go faster, don't stop. This was useful for our ancestors to escape a saber-tooth tiger, but it's wreaking havoc in our modern lives because "predators" are everywhere (email inbox, deadlines, news feeds, etc). This is how you get stuck in the survival zone where your stress reaction is chronically activated, health problems kick in, and you become even more vulnerable to burnout.
The Human Stress Curve below reminds us that not all stress is bad. In fact, eustress is healthy "optimal" stress that helps us get sh*t done and show up as our best selves.
The problem is, our pressured work environments and survival brain reactivity cause us to tip into the zones of distress and burnout all too easily (and operate from there for far too long).
A key ingredient for building your resilience is learning to recognize, through self-awareness, when you are in the orange/red zones, and then resourcing yourself with simple tools to help you shift back into the zone of eustress.
The most effective way to make this shift is through PAUSING. And in actuality, pausing just might save your life. When you pause periodically, you activate your Wise Brain and put your nervous system into neutral, which gives your brain a breather. Your stress levels come down, your blood pressure lowers, anxiety softens, and fresh mental energy and creative problem solving can arise. When we’re on autopilot, we tend to fill every waking moment of our day:
This comes at a high cost, even if it feels productive or necessary in the moment. 🥵
When we train ourselves to take pauses, a whole new realm of possibility opens up – for our performance AND wellbeing:
Instead of unconsciously filling the gaps with autopilot behaviors that keep our brains/bodies in “on” mode (e.g. instagram or news feeds that intensify survival brain), we can skillfully insert pauses:
And here’s the deal – these pauses can be 10 seconds or less! That’s it. This isn't rocket science folks. This is Performance 101. Ten seconds every half hour or hour is a solid start. Neuroscience shows that small breaks in your brain activity are one of the most effective ways to reduce burnout and promote optimal brain function and mental health at work. When was the last time you paused for a brain breather? Give it a try right now – see how it feels!
Written by Rena Satre Meloy, Pause Cofounder