Taking a break: benefits and tips

By Sarah Earles, MS, LPC, NCC | February 12, 2023 

Part 2 in the Self-Regulation Series

Taking a break is a simple way to pursue self-regulation. In times of elevated emotion, though, it can be hard to think of how to take a break. What does one even do to take a break when things are overwhelming? Making a plan for ways to take a break before the need for one arises can be helpful.

Many adults possess the executive capacities and self-awareness to make plans for themselves to take a break. Children, however, may need co-regulation to take breaks. They may also need to be taught how to take breaks to eventually learn to use this skill on their own (Day, 2019). An adult who has never learned to take breaks may need support as well. This may come from a friend, partner, mentor, coach, or therapist.

That being said… what does taking a break look like? Taking a break looks like stepping away from the current situation to do something enjoyable (Day, 2019). This break should not have demands, as demands can be part of the stressors necessitating the break. Breaks can either up-regulate (energize) or down-regulate (calm). Breaks can be mental, physical, or spiritual in nature (Yoo, 2018). Most people benefit from trying out different regulatory strategies to discover which work best for them (Huebner, 2008). Practice also teaches the brain how to access the “take a break” pathway when upset or overwhelmed.

With a little preparation, taking a break can be very accessible (for adults and children). Preparation might look like setting up a place for taking a break. This could be a comfortable chair, a special corner of a room, or when nothing else is available, a bathroom that allows for a closed door and some quiet (Sabiston, 2016). Preparation could also look like making a list of strategies (Art It Out, n.d.). Adults might do this in a phone note. Adults helping kids with taking a break might use flash cards or a written and posted formula (Schmidt, 2022; Movement Matters, 2022). Preparation might also involve making a calm-down kit (Day, 2019). This kit might include sensory stimuli such as scents, sights, or sounds that down-regulate the body (Schmidt, 2022). The best preparation for taking a break should include multiple strategies.

With up-front understanding, preparation, and planning, taking a break becomes easy to access and simple to do. This is the goal when using breaks to help with self-regulation. Self-regulation is about getting oneself back to baseline, in touch with higher functioning, and able to solve problems so that maybe next time, self-regulation will be even more accessible, perhaps even in the moment!

Recommended Reads

The counselor is writing a treatment plan for her patient
Benefits of Creating a Treatment Plan
A treatment plan is a document used in therapy. It keeps you and your therapist accountable for the time...
Read More
Happy father teaching his child daughter to ride a bike in the park, enjoying time together on weekend on nature.
Healthy Boundaries and Parentification
Creating healthy boundaries is key when there is lack of trust between kids and their caregiver. "Parentification”...
Read More

Part 2 in the Self-Regulation Series

Taking a break is a simple way to pursue self-regulation. In times of elevated emotion, though, it can be hard to think of how to take a break. What does one even do to take a break when things are overwhelming? Making a plan for ways to take a break before the need for one arises can be helpful.

Many adults possess the executive capacities and self-awareness to make plans for themselves to take a break. Children, however, may need co-regulation to take breaks. They may also need to be taught how to take breaks to eventually learn to use this skill on their own (Day, 2019). An adult who has never learned to take breaks may need support as well. This may come from a friend, partner, mentor, coach, or therapist.

That being said… what does taking a break look like? Taking a break looks like stepping away from the current situation to do something enjoyable (Day, 2019). This break should not have demands, as demands can be part of the stressors necessitating the break. Breaks can either up-regulate (energize) or down-regulate (calm). Breaks can be mental, physical, or spiritual in nature (Yoo, 2018). Most people benefit from trying out different regulatory strategies to discover which work best for them (Huebner, 2008). Practice also teaches the brain how to access the “take a break” pathway when upset or overwhelmed.

With a little preparation, taking a break can be very accessible (for adults and children). Preparation might look like setting up a place for taking a break. This could be a comfortable chair, a special corner of a room, or when nothing else is available, a bathroom that allows for a closed door and some quiet (Sabiston, 2016). Preparation could also look like making a list of strategies (Art It Out, n.d.). Adults might do this in a phone note. Adults helping kids with taking a break might use flash cards or a written and posted formula (Schmidt, 2022; Movement Matters, 2022). Preparation might also involve making a calm-down kit (Day, 2019). This kit might include sensory stimuli such as scents, sights, or sounds that down-regulate the body (Schmidt, 2022). The best preparation for taking a break should include multiple strategies.

With up-front understanding, preparation, and planning, taking a break becomes easy to access and simple to do. This is the goal when using breaks to help with self-regulation. Self-regulation is about getting oneself back to baseline, in touch with higher functioning, and able to solve problems so that maybe next time, self-regulation will be even more accessible, perhaps even in the moment!

Recommended Reads

Family and Christmas lights
Don't Let Your Past Define Your Future Relationships
Don't let your past relationships define your future. Every new relationship is an opportunity to choose...
Read More
Lonely thoughtful sad small girl sits on floor
Compliment or Complain: Why it can Cause Confusion
Compliments are not designed to be a threat. However, many times foster or adoptive children see this...
Read More