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How to practice the lost art of “stopping”


Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Miguel Pastorino - published on 04/16/18

Work, family, plans with friends, sports ... when do you take time to savor life?

One of the problems that constantly comes up in many people’s lives is maintaining balance between work life, family life, and personal time. But in most cases the root of the matter is the inability to prioritize what is really important, especially caring for one’s own life. When something is really important for us, we find the time for it.

We tend to postpone the important things because of what’s urgent so our health and our relationships with others suffer. In fact, it’s the family that usually pays the high price of all the rushing we do. Don’t you think we need to stop from time to time? Could it be that we’ve forgotten the importance of taking breaks in everyday life? Have we forgotten the art of stopping?

We may be doing well in our work and achieving our goals, but on the way we can forget to take care of the life that sustains everything else.

How can we take better care of ourselves and not fall into unbridled busyness? The recommendation, from the ancient philosophers to the experts in occupational medicine, is to learn to take breaks in day-to-day life. It is an old and wise custom to pause in the middle of any activity, and it has great benefits.

Philo of Alexandria (1st century AD) understood rest as an activity without effort, as a creative state of calm. For the Jewish philosopher, only the irrational man is agitated, while the wise man knows how to rest to get in touch with his own creativity.

The art of stopping

The word pause in its Greek origin (anapausis) refers to “repose,” “interruption,” “rest.” In ancient times, the pause was understood as a creative act, as a healing interruption.

Co mi dało odcięcie od sieci na kilka dni?

Specifically, it is interrupting what one is doing in order to do something totally different. While there are many exercises that can be done to rest psychologically and physically, a true pause must always include the opposite of what we are doing at work.

If we have been sitting in front of a computer, the pause cannot be a video game, but should involve physical activity. If we have been talking a lot, the pause should be silence. If we have been reading a lot, the pause is not to read something else, but to do something different.

The pause for those who work with great physical effort is stillness. For those who are working alone, their pause may require contact with others. And if it is the other way around and you work with many people, the pause will be a time of reparative solitude.

In many jobs, people who do not respect breaks run a greater risk of accidents, and become more careless and less efficient in their task.

Many companies began to incorporate meditation or relaxation times into their employees’ day because of endemic high stress.

Without a doubt, contact with nature, with its sounds and harmony, is an excellent remedy to interrupt our tech-saturated life, so when choosing long breaks (holidays or a weekend), it is important not to go to a place similar to the one we always live in, because we will continue to be overstimulated.

Tips from occupational medicine

Studies on the pace of work and breaks show that the highest work efficiency requires regular breaks of 10 or 15 minutes every two hours.

WEB-WOMAN-TEA-CUP-SUN-CALM-Shutterstock_336592760- Rock and Wasp-AI
Shutterstock / Rock and Wasp

If we continue working and “take advantage” of the breaks to do pending things, our body suffers. The naive idea that you can do more by taking advantage of what could be a pause reduces overall performance, particularly concentration and creativity.

Those who do not rest have more careless errors, forgetfulness, and greater wear and tear, making them less efficient in the long term.

Take advantage of “waiting times”

The art of stopping, of knowing how to pause and to wait, must be learned. The virtue of patience does not seem fashionable today and some see it as something negative.

Photo by Jacalyn Beales on Unsplash

How many times does it happen to us that we get anxious when we have to wait and we don’t know what to do with ourselves in those minutes? These random, unplanned, unintended pauses that force us to stop are an opportunity to focus on the present and use it for our own well-being.

When waiting in a line, at a traffic light, or wherever, we can take advantage of that time to pause inside, to breathe more slowly, to meditate or pray. Learning to wait by focusing on the present makes a difference in the quality of the time we lived.

In mealtime breaks at work, for example, it’s important to change the place so that it is a real pause. (Don’t eat at your desk!) And if we have lunch with coworkers, it’s important not to talk about work issues, so that it is really “something different.”

Recover the center

Living from activity to activity is usually a way of avoiding ourselves, losing contact with our interior and not really paying attention to what is happening around and within us.

Nikodash - Shutterstock

Focusing the attention on oneself, on one’s own body and thoughts, on one’s own feelings, allows us to recover the path towards our interior and helps us to remain centered, more available to others and with a greater capacity to listen.


Read more:
Why you need to be a parent … to yourself


Read more:
Most patients need rest, not antibiotics

Translated from Spanish by Patricia Bailey.

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