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27 Ways to Press Pause

Some of us have a hard time relaxing.

We get sucked into the following cycle: (sorta) sleep, eat, work, eat, work, (sorta) sleep, with some cleaning and household chores mixed in. Because it’s too easy to go without stopping. Because it keeps the guilt at bay. It keeps our inner-critic quiet. It keeps thoughts like “There’s soooo much to do!!!!” (generally) away.

But pressing pause is vital. And, if it helps you to think about it in this way, it’s also highly productive. Pausing gives us the opportunity to recover mentally, emotionally and physically. Which means we’re able to refocus on whatever is important to us, such as working and caring for others.

If you’re not used to unwinding, you might not know what to do. Which is why it’s nice to have a list at the ready—and to turn to it often.

This list can include your favorite things, activities that genuinely refresh and restore you, silly and fun activities that make you smile. The guided journal Unwind Every Day is filled with such ideas. Below are some of my favorites to help you press pause.

  1. Wander around your neighborhood
  2. Ask your friend for a TV show or movie recommendation—and watch it
  3. Go to bed early to read
  4. Jot down 10 compliments for yourself
  5. Stretch for 10 minutes
  6. Try a new flavor of ice cream
  7. Order takeout
  8. Write yourself a love poem
  9. Watch a classic movie
  10. Use an aromatherapy eye pillow to rest for 10 minutes
  11. Linger over the Sunday paper (or any publication)
  12. Go to a candy store
  13. Color in a coloring book
  14. Revisit an old hobby
  15. Watch the sunset
  16. Listen to an inspirational speech
  17. Have a picnic at the park
  18. Watch cartoons
  19. Make a list of local bakeries, and try a new one every week
  20. Build a pillow fort
  21. Go stargazing
  22. Observe fish at an aquarium
  23. Draw a mandala
  24. Close your eyes and daydream
  25. Read poetry
  26. Make something with your hands
  27. Visit a botanical garden

It’s hard to stop going and going. It’s hard to pause before we’re completely and utterly burnt out. Because only when we’re completely and utterly burnt out do we feel like we finally deserve it.

I’m a workhorse and when there are tasks left on my to-do list (as there always are), I feel guilty. I feel like I must keep going—I feel compelled to—no matter how tired or drained I am, no matter how much I’ve worked that day or week. I feel like I have to squeeze every last bit of energy, creativity, and effort out of myself. It’s never enough.

But there is nourishment in the pause. Necessary, vital nourishment.

Try to incorporate different kinds of breaks into your day. This is one important way we practice self-care: We identify the kind of pause we need, and we provide it—even when our inner-critic is talking, even when our thoughts say it’s the worst thing we can do. It’s not. It’s actually the best thing.

I’ll keep reminding myself of this fact. And I hope you will, too.

What are your favorite ways to press pause and genuinely unwind? What resonates with you from the above list?

Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash

27 Ways to Press Pause

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). 27 Ways to Press Pause. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 28 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 28 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.