For many, to say life feels “busy” is a gross understatement. Between a hyper-focus on productivity, a sense of urgency to get things done yesterday, and society’s relentless pressure to accomplish big goals and dreams, it can feel exhausting just to make it through the morning. As we attempt to juggle family, work, and some semblance of a personal life, taking a pause might feel impossible.

What we often forget, whether we’re running a life marathon or not, is that a pause doesn’t have to be huge to be highly effective. Taking a short and simple pause to make room for a slow breath can be a life-changing practice. And yet, even when we know this, it can be really difficult to develop this habit.

Part of the reason many of us struggle to include pauses is because our nervous system is running in high gear, a kind of survival mode, not only making it harder to remember to take a pause, but possibly making it seem unsafe. When our nervous system is in a state of fight or flight, our bodies are saying “not safe!”, and all of our body’s functions follow suit to help us actually fight or flee if necessary.

Although these adaptive survival responses can make it more challenging to integrate a pause, it’s also the best medicine. It’s in those moments of pause that we allow our body to regain a sense of safety, even if it’s just for a moment. We actually communicate to our body, through breath and intention, that we are safe enough to take a pause, that we are safe enough to consider our options, and that we are safe enough to socially engage and connect.

As you read through the following reflections by Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Jaycee Dugard, Margie McDonald, and Carmen Theobald consider what “pause” means to you.

Reflections on “Pause” from trauma therapist, Dr. Rebecca Bailey

The power of the pause is another one of those secrets that took me FOREVER to really understand. Pause means slowing down and being open to the idea that waiting for a second. It can mean the difference between resolution and continued conflict. As a psychologist, pause has always made sense. Encouraging people to slow down, take a breath, and center themselves is a therapeutic no-brainer. When someone regulates enough to pause peacefully, problem-solving becomes easier. Pausing can also make room for the awareness that maybe no solution is necessary. Settling peacefully is only attainable through the pause. When my children were younger it was exponentially harder to operationalize a pause into my life and theirs. Looking back, I wish I had made the connection between my professional and my personal life. In other words, if I had figured out a way to incorporate pauses into my personal repertoire, I am certain transitions would have gone smoother.

Reflections on “Pause” from trauma survivor, Jaycee Dugard

I had to learn how to pause after the whirlwind of rescue and recovery. It’s so easy to just keep going and going and not stop or even feel like you can stop
moving especially after going through something traumatic. There’s a lot going on and you feel like you need to be in on everything that’s going on around you.
Something I have learned though, is the importance of pausing. I’m telling you now it’s important to remember to take a breath. Taking a pause and taking stock
of how you are feeling inside is so important during recovery and beyond. It takes a conscious effort to be in the present moment and horses have helped me to
come back to the present moment and pay attention to what is going on in my environment. Horses have this amazing ability of being so in tune with each other
and their environment. Just being in their presence is a way to start to notice what is going on for you, take a pause, and find those quiet moments to really
get in touch with yourself so you can be more present in your life.

Reflections on “Pause” from horse specialist, Margie McDonald

Pause is such an important word when working with horses. It is a large part of my training philosophy to always have patience, kindness, and curiosity. This can only occur when I can take a pause to better understand what the horse is doing. When working with horses, it’s important for me to be able to pause, take a breath, and understand what the horse is telling me, especially when I see a horse having difficulty solving a problem. The problem could be anything from loading into a trailer, crossing a ditch, or picking up a hoof. If I can take a pause in the activity, I can then check in on my nervous system and make sure that I’m not getting into a sympathetic arousal response. I want to stay in a more neutral place, in the dorsal pathways.

Pausing allows me to take a deep breath, realize that the horse is telling me that they are not feeling safe and I then can remove any projections of expected performance outcomes. Pausing means that I can stop for a moment, check in with my body, and know where I am responding to the issue. Only when I truly know what I’m feeling and become neutral, will I be able to focus on the horse and help calm their nervous system to overcome the perceived problem and
restore a felt sense of safety. The moment that safety is felt is the moment when connection and learning can happen.

Reflections on “Pause” from empowerment coach, Carmen Theobald

Working with horses as a farrier (hoof care for horses) has been one of my best and most brutal teachers for integrating the pause. More times than I can count, I’ve sensed in my body that either I need a pause, or the horse does. And more times than I can count, I ignored that little voice inside. Every single time I’ve ignored that voice, I’ve gotten hurt. Every. Single. Time.

Sometimes that injury was really minor, for example having the horse pull their foot away abruptly and it put a little extra pressure on my muscles and joints. Other times, I’ve had broken bones or stitches. This is not to say horses are brutal teachers on the whole. In fact, they tend to be soft and caring teachers, but my professional role of being a farrier is a particular dangerous one, being listed with the same insurance rates as the military.

I’m grateful for this intense, and sometimes excruciating role with horses, because I can honestly say I’ve learnt my lesson. After a school of hard knocks, I’m a much better listener. I listen to my inner voice, to the subtle shifts in energy in myself and others, and make room for that life-changing and life-saving pause. Whether I’m with humans or horses, the pause is my favorite and most trusted tool, helping me navigate any situation, offering more safety and connection to myself and others.

Now it’s your turn!
What does “pause” mean to YOU?

Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Author: Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Dr . Bailey is a leading trauma therapist who specializes in complex case scenarios. She has over 30 years of experience in the field and continues to be dedicated to the notion that authenticity, common sense, and kindness are the most important elements of effective treatment. She is a lifelong equestrian and animal lover who continues to believe animals, in particular horses, have much to teach humans about curiosity and compassion.