One of my favorite yoga teachers often offers a reminder to pause and breathe during practice. Effort and ease. I’ve been taking her classes for years and she has always woven that advice into her teaching. And, if I’m being honest, I always thought it was something along the lines of optional; that the effort was what turned the key of progress and the ease was, well, optional.

Then, she explained it this way and I couldn’t ignore the lightbulb clicked on: the pause lets your mind and body know that you are not in crisis and there is no need for panic. No crisis and no need for panic. It had never occurred to me that this type of internal communication was needed. Turns out, it’s not only needed, it’s vital! Taking that concept off the mat and into life, it became clear that being in a constant state of doing tells the mind and body that we are in crisis. Pushing and pushing to stay productive draws relentlessly on our resources, leaving precious little for the other pieces of our lives.

The pause is where the magic is.

This kind of purposeful break is a gift to your nervous system and allows for space to regroup, refocus, and recenter before returning to effort. In turn, the effort that follows is grounded in strength, not fear. Turns out, not so much on the optional.

More than ever, with work from home transitions blurring the lines of work/life balance, we can find ourselves in a constant state of striving, unaware of the effects such a sustained level of persistent action is having on our well-being. We work, live, play, and rest in the same spaces. We have a tendency to shoehorn tasks into the smallest of spaces just to get one more thing accomplished. Add to that a culture that often glorifies busyness, and you have yourself a recipe for go, go, go, without the counterbalance of meaningful pauses.  

We find ourselves repeating “as soon as I finish/get control of/conquer this, then I’ll rest,” like some sort of diabolical mantra. We’re all painfully aware, somewhere deep down, that the “this” in that statement is a moving target we will never reach. And thus, the rest never comes.

There is power in the pause.

We need to prioritize the pause in the same way we value its hard-working counterpart, persistence. They need each other and we need both. The Swedish concept of Lagom (not too little, not too much) is a lovely example of this and Niki Brantmark’s book is a great place to start.

The ability to persist and the energy to persevere can be fed and inspired by the pause. The pause can provide the brief rest that provides critical oxygen to ignite your creativity, problem-solving, and innovation sparks. Instead of spending all of your energy on survival and completion, the most valuable parts of your skillset light up because they’re finally getting the fuel they need.

Prioritizing the pause is a learned skill. Make space for it. Breathe into it. With some practice, it will empower you to do work you’re proud of while nurturing the other parts of your life that make you, uniquely you.