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Feeling Stressed? Take A Time Out This Holiday Season

No matter if you are around others or by yourself this holiday season, adults need timeouts as much as kids. For adults, preventative timeouts can be the difference between saying or doing something you regret and maintaining sanity. Rather than a form of punishment, reframing an adult timeout as prevention and building a reserve of strength can help your circumstance.

Taking timeouts can help prevent increased anxiety, depression, anger, irritability, burnout… There are ways to take timeouts in the moment and create moments to take the timeout, depending on the situation. Welcome the space with open arms to help you lessen your stress.

Taking an adult timeout is simple and can be practiced with these 5 tools whenever the need arises.

1. Breathe.

Breath is one of the simplest ways to pause. It helps connect your mind, body, and spirit in the moment. You don’t have to leave a room. You don’t need to make a scene. Breath helps you stay right where you are, wherever you are. A breath can help you regain sanity and help you to avoid saying or doing something that is regretful. It is the easiest timeout an adult can take.

During the holidays, split seconds can determine how you show up for yourself. Breath can help you stay true to yourself and your goals. It can be the difference between a guttural reaction and a thoughtful response.

Take 4 seconds to breathe in through your nose going deep into your belly and take 4 seconds to breathe out through your mouth letting go of negativity. That 8 seconds can help you through conversations, difficult moments, and bring you right back to where you are wherever that may be.

2. Recite the serenity prayer.

Even if religious or spiritual guidance doesn’t connect with you, the time it takes to say the serenity prayer can relieve the tension in a moment. Stopping whatever you are doing and reciting the prayer in your brain until you feel comfort can help alleviate stress. You can even continue your activity, and instead of speaking, recite the prayer in your brain for a break from the mental anguish of the moment.

The serenity prayer is often recited in recovery rooms, but anyone can benefit from the timeout it provides. You do not have to pray to God to make the serenity prayer worth your time. Replace God with whatever entity you connect with most or remove it all together. The point is that the serenity prayer allows for the time needed to step out of the moment and back into your body.

3. Make coffee or tea.

One of the most fulfilling ways to take an adult timeout is by connecting back to the present moment. To do this, making coffee/tea for others, or yourself can help you to create space to be present again.

Indulge your 5 senses to soothe your soul with the process. Listen for the water pouring on the coffee grounds or tea leaves. Smell the earthy tones rise through percolation or brewing. Watch the water change colors as it goes from clear to brown, green, red, or black. Once you pour, hold the warm mug between your hands allowing yourself to savor the moment. Taste the comfort in your cup.

The time it takes to make coffee or tea can help you restart your mind and heart. You can create this mindful moment whenever you need it. As a bonus, you can offer the indulgence to others and let go of the expectations around how you want them to feel about what you have made. This is about connecting to the present moment to let yourself have a reprieve when things feel hard.

4. Keep a book of poems/prayers on your nightstand.

Sometimes, you need to remove yourself from a situation all together. That is okay. Self growth happens when you take a break rather than prolong the silent treatment. Different circumstances call for different types of timeouts in order to maintain inner peace. By keeping a book of prayers or poems on your nightstand or near your bed, you can comfort yourself with words that matter to you.

Instead of ruminating about something, read a few of your favorite pieces in your book. Let yourself put your eyes on the paper. Immerse yourself into the familiarity of someone else’s words instead of repetition of your own. Your brain can redirect with the help of a quick read. Reading the poems or prayers can be the equivalent time of a bathroom break. It’s a calming way to get out of your head and back into the moment.

Some books used in recovery include One Day at a Time, Courage to Change, Daily Affirmations: Strengthening My Recovery, and Hope for Today. You don’t have to be in recovery to welcome the benefits of comforting words.

Poetry books that offer peace include Heart Talk by Cleo Wade, Home Body by Rupi Kaur, and Devotions by Mary Oliver. All of the books have peace within a short time in common if you allow it. They are a perfect way to have an adult timeout.

5. Take care of yourself with a prevention plan.

You know you. Better than you may think you do. Think about what works for you and what doesn’t work for you in regards to taking care of yourself and your needs. During the holiday season (and beyond), it is important to be preventative with your care.

Taking a timeout means planning to have resources available to you. If you know that you don’t want to rely on someone else for transportation, rent a car. Sometimes, cutting costs can lead to cutting ties with family members because of growing resentments. Having the freedom of car rental can lead to longer timeouts if things get tough.

Taking a drive is a wonderful way to empower yourself in the moment. If you know you need your own space, get a hotel room. That way, you can head back to your hotel room at any time to take a break from family or regroup yourself. With the pandemic, some of these freedom techniques may be limited due to your boundaries. It’s okay to decide that the cost is not worth it. Then, you can switch your focus on what you need to do at home to enjoy time with yourself.

Think ahead on what resources you will and won’t need to stay within your boundaries. This is one of the best ways to ensure that you have a safe and comfortable holiday no matter where or how you celebrate.


Adult timeouts are not only wanted but also needed to maintain inner peace. It is acceptable to get upset if things get tough, and there are tools at your disposal to lessen the pain. Being preventative when you know certain situations will arise is a step into emotional maturity.

If you know a pattern will play out, prepare yourself with techniques that will help you get through it. You are not alone with your discomfort, even when the solution starts with you. Taking care of yourself during the holiday season is important, especially with the pandemic. Understand your limits and plan your timeouts accordingly. We have options, and it is up to us on what choices we make.


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