We can all use this from time to time. With practice and intention, it's a great help.
To pause during a distressing situation allows you to identify healthier ways of managing your emotions and to avoid reacting impulsively. When confronted with distressing situations, it can be challenging to remember healthy coping strategies that you have learned. It might seem easier and feel more natural to return to unhealthy habits than to identify helpful techniques to manage your emotions. When you take a step back from an emotionally upsetting situation, it gives you the opportunity to examine the situation more objectively. As a result, you are more likely to choose healthier solutions and coping techniques.
The following strategy, which uses the acronym REST, lays out the steps to help you pause, clear your head, and then determine a helpful plan of action to address the situation. By encouraging you to briefly shift your attention from emotions and urges to facts and solutions, REST can be used as the first step in changing your unhealthy habits.
Relax: Take a “time out” from the situation to focus on your well-being. Go for a walk, take a hot bath, call a supportive friend, or even just take some deep breaths or count to ten.
Evaluate: Identify the facts within the distressing situation. Notice how you feel physically and emotionally. Observe what other people are doing and how they are reacting. Identify any threats to your safety.
Set an intention: Create a goal or plan to address the situation. This could mean choosing a coping skill, asking someone for help, calling a family meeting, or negotiating with others.
Take action: Put your plan into action with intention and awareness. While you may not necessarily resolve the situation, this action will be more effective than the impulsive behaviour you would have otherwise carried out.
You might need to repeat some or all of the REST steps during a particularly overwhelming or upsetting situation. But with practice, it can become a new habit to help you manage your emotions and cope in tough situations.