In our weekly spot where we talk about mental health and general wellbeing, a quick natter about taking a little bit of time out.

Hello, and welcome to Wellbeing Matters, our regular spot to have a chat about life, the universe and anything in-between that takes your fancy.

This week, we’re thinking about the pause button. Right now, it might feel like that button has been hit for us. Vital key work goes on, but many of us are in involuntary stasis, whether by furlough, illness or a lack of access to our broader network of family and friends.

Moving forward, the pause button is being released to a degree. Slowly, sometimes unwillingly. For some, it introduces additional risks to everyday tasks. For others, it means placing loved ones in the care of others, trying to mitigate risks and to do our best to understand sometimes contradictory information coming our way.

It can be overwhelming. Voices from all angles, competing demands, having to make unpopular decisions. It’s here when it might be a good time to hit the pause button for yourself.

To step back, take a deep breath and make a cup of coffee. Eat a biscuit (in my case a whole lemon Swiss roll at 1am). Be kind to yourself when you take a pause.

It’s okay to take time out. To give your brain a break. Watch something stupid with the kids, go for a walk if you are able. Scratch the dog behind the ears. Wear something outlandish to do something mundane.

Asking people to take a voluntary pause in the middle of a mandatory pause is a bit contradictory. But the word is voluntary. It’s about regaining a sense of control over the narrative of your life. Other people have been making key decisions on our behalf for a while. Now that time is shifting, and it can be disorientating to sort out your own narrative and get on the right track for you and yours.

I had a week out last week. The wheels had come off my mental cart. To stop them buckling completely, I needed to stop putting pressure in myself, to stop forcing myself towards participating in activities I am not yet ready to do. Making those decisions brought a huge slice of guilt. I hit a brick wall, then I hit pause.

After a little while I could feel the wheels straightening out a little. I conducted a mini SWOT analysis of my options. Looked for the clauses, the natural pauses.

All our SWOTs will be different. All of us will have threats at different levels, weaknesses to be mitigated. But we also have our strengths and opportunities. We don’t need to leave lockdown fluent in a new language or able to pretzel our legs. We can leave it with a plan that works to fit our circumstances.

I made a plan. And I executed the bullet points, one by one, when I felt up to it. I drafted a tentative framework for the future, noting points where I have to steel myself to step out into the world again. Looked at how I can cut back risk, but also how it will help move me forward in the future.

I’m not hitting fast forward for a while. I’m pressing play with trepidation, but crucially with the remote control in my own hands. We can only take those decisions that are best for us, best for our loved ones. To do this, give yourselves time to think through the options, and find the road least paved with potholes.

My SWOT analogy isn’t perfect. There are factors at play beyond all our control. Sometimes the batteries in our remotes will go flat, and someone else mighty need to come along and replace them to kickstart us again. Accept help if it is offered. This is a scary time.

Whatever way we move forward, however often we have to stop, look around and smell the coffee and don’t be afraid to say you need that time out. To hit that pause button (and the mute too, if need be). There’s no right or wrong way for us to move forward right now. We’ll each find our way.

And while we do, take very good care.

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