When I was little, I was a frequent visitor in a certain corner in our home. Seated in a small chair, my mom told me to sit quietly, and think about whatever misdeed I’d done or tantrum I’d thrown.
Sitting there and reflecting, I had a secret. Once my gulping tears stopped, and my cheeks dried, I sort of like time-outs.
They were great for rethinking my actions, but also for daydreaming and relaxing. Other than letting my mind wander, nothing else was expected of me. There was a tremendous relief because my pent-up emotions had been unleashed.
As a teenager, being sent to my room had a similar effect on me. Being grounded from my friends or my favorite music, or the mall was hard and a shock to my social-system and could cause more tears, and perhaps I stomped up the stairs. Quite dramatically. But I eventually found inner quiet snuggled on my bed or in my chair grandpa’s rocking chair (inherited after his death) reconsidering my recent behavior, choices, attitude, or comments.
And again, daydreaming. About being a wife. A mom. A writer.
Looking back, I realize that even as a very young child I could feel it coming on; that overwhelmed, prickly, restless, agitated, ornery, angry, I’m going to pitch a fit feeling. The following emotional explosion was terrible and a tremendous relief, similar to a summer storm that pelts down on us and leaves freshness in its wake.
These days at the first sign I know it’s in my best interest, and everyone else who has contact with me, if I schedule a personal time-out. Immediately. Or I’m quickly a tangled, snarly, brittle, mess of emotions.
Here are my symptoms:
- I’m easily annoyed. Little things my husband (or anyone else in my life) does bug me. These are things not even on my regular radar. On a good day, if I notice them, I might even think they’re cute. Not so much on these days.
- Soon, I’m irritated. I sigh. A lot. Or roll my eyes. I can feel my eyebrows sort of freeze into a furrowed position. My stomach is unsettled, and that ticked-off feeling takes over.
- Next, I’m tense. My jaws clench and a headache is on its way. My shoulders are getting into the act. The volume and intensity of my words increases.
- Finally, I’m stressed out. The headache has arrived, and it’s about to get worse. A this point, I cry, pace, and my jaws now hurt. There’s pain between my shoulder blades and my right eye twitches. Panic is sometimes involved. I’m undone, and it’s bad.
A personal time-out!
Like most of the women I know, life is busy. Carving out me-time seems impossible and even a little selfish. My daily list is full of things I have to or need to do. I have expectations (usually my own) to live up to. My Google calendar is a rainbow of responsibilities with very little space in between.
I want and sometimes need more white space in my life!
It’s taken me years to realize that calling a personal time-out is one of the best things I can do for those I love, for my work, and for myself.
What does a time-out look like?
My time-outs take very little effort and cost almost nothing.
- Sometimes I send myself to my bedroom. I’ve created a small oasis in one corner I can enjoy any time, but on these days, it’s my haven.
- Other times, it’s a walk with my dogs, Sophie and Tucker. Or a ride on our John Deere Gator with them riding shot-gun, coffee in my to-go mug, and my camera.
- When it’s a work day, it might be ten minutes of yoga in the ladies room. I am not in great shape, but have four favorite moves I can do in the handicap stall of most restrooms. Yes, they can see my feet under the door, but this effort on my part is also in everyone’s best interest, so it doesn’t matter!
- At the office, I have been known to close the door, drink some water or a cup of coffee slowly, put my head down on my desk, breathe, and rest.
- Long or short walks work, and in the building where I work. I call them “hall-walks.” There are long hallways that are often empty except for me. Because I also listen to music on these time-outs, I’ve been known to sing. Out loud. Not well. So, I tend to save this option for early or late in the day.
- If I’m away from home, I go to my car. I don’t drive unless I have to. It can be the perfect time-out corner. I can rest my head on the steering wheel, cry, whisper loudly, and listen to music if that’s helpful.
There are three parts to my plan I consider essential:
- Early recognition. If I can catch myself in the annoyed stage, I rarely advance to the others.
- Prayer in a solitary place. I know where I’m headed, and it’s certainly no surprise to God, and I pray without boundaries. He gets the worst of me so I can give Him the best of me when this passes. To keep myself on track, I sometimes journal my prayers.
Jesus is my example for this. In Matthew 6:6a he says, “But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.”
- One day I asked myself, “What if I treated myself the way I treat others? What if I forgave myself quickly, moved on, and let peace and grace replace the chaos? What if I forgave myself the way I forgave them? Self-forgiveness is essential.
In Mark 12: 30 & 31 Jesus tells us, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
Notice He says, “as yourself.” Offering myself grace empowers me to do the same to others.
Here’s why I say that with such confidence. We’re told in 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”
The response from God is immediate. I confess; He forgives, and as far as He is concerned, the sin I took to Him is gone. So are its three amigos: guilt, shame, and regret.
How long does a time-out take?
It depends on what’s happened, how long I’ve waited, what’s still on my agenda, how many others I’ve hurt along the way, and where I’m at; the office, home, in the car, or in a public place.
The results of a time-out?
Peace. It’s like God gently pours a bucket of cool, fresh water on my injured, worn, sad, angry, and/or swollen soul.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27 NLT
If I go sooner than later, I don’t do as much damage, and that’s good. Then there’s the fact that the relief is fantastic, but it’s much bigger than that. After some quality corner-time, I can live out the Golden Rule joyfully without a shred of spiritual fakery. You know what I mean. Here’s an example: I can walk into church and be asked, “How are you?” and answer, “Fine, thanks, how are you?” and mean it, even when life is hard or worse. No snarky internal voice is saying, “If you only knew! But then you don’t really care to know do you?” I’m free from that voice and its harping words, because God cares and He met in that place and we’re good and now I can ‘do to others whatever I would like them to do to me. (Matthew 7:12a).
After a time-out, life isn’t perfect, but my heart is less tangled.
When you feel a melt-down on its way, what do you do to release it and live in freedom again?
Until Next Time,