I am deeply thankful Chris and I work on a language for the need to take a breather.
Once I reacted, Chris knew what was happening and gave me space. When I can recognize that the request or conversation is too much for my emotional capacity, I can convey what I need. Usually, this means I need a break, which makes interactions go more smoothly. On his end, I appreciated Chris respected my request.
This “backing up” increases trust and provides safety in the relationship.
To be honest, there are times Chris tells me I am overwhelming him, but I don’t want to stop the conversation. My relational brain is off, and I have shifted into a problem-solving mode where I just need him to answer one more question so I can get back to ___. (Fill in the blank with a task.) I have noticed that when I do “back off” and give him a breather, everything goes much better.
After all, who likes to feel pushed, pressured, even unprotected?
We all have moments when others do not respect the need for a breather. Honestly, it doesn’t feel good. Most of us have moments when we fail to see and respect the need for a breather in someone around us. If this is something you struggle with, I suggest the following.
- Notice the activity in your body. You may not be used to paying attention to the knot in your stomach, or the increasing tension in your shoulders, but your body is telling a story. Take a moment and notice what you are feeling and thinking. When you scan your body and hone your awareness of how you are feeling, it leads to better clarity for when you reach your limit and require a breather or some rest.
- Have a conversation with the people close to you about this. Invite friends and coworkers to tell you if they need a breather and convey there are times you may ask for a breather as well. Rather than this becoming an exchange of shame, the common language and permission provide freedom and flexibility. In our household, we have code words to remind each other to “take a deep breath” when an interaction is beginning to feel intense or head south.