This guest post is a collaboration with my good friend and inspiration, Marie Knapp. Marie has a Ph.D. in education and is the author of the fabulous book The Path to a More Inspiring Future. Marie is an obsessive learner whose dream is to inspire others to live their best life. 

Pause and Reset

If the world could be the way we want it, we would all relate to each other in a friendly manner, giving time to each other by listening and clarifying, inspiring and uplifting, and accepting and allowing each other to be the person they are. Wouldn’t that be great?

That is not the real world. In stressful situations, our first reaction may be defensiveness, blaming, and making excuses. But is there a better way to approach a stressful situation? Generally, it takes courage to admit that we share responsibility for the world we create for ourselves through our thoughts and actions. Following Gandhi’s teachings, we must be the change we want to see in the world around us.

A few decades back, a therapist asked me where in my body I had noticed the feeling I had been expressing. I didn’t have a clue. It seemed I was rather numb from the neck down. As I learned about healing arts like Therapeutic Touch and Reiki, I gradually became aware of where I felt different kinds of stress. This is called somatic awareness.

Over time, I became aware that if someone said something that touched a vulnerable point for me, I could feel the defensiveness in my arms first. It was like a feeling of tension running up my arms.


This awareness has become my ally: I pause when I notice this embodied stress signal and try to refrain from reacting immediately. This pause helps me temper my response. It allows me to reset.


When I don’t respond angrily or defensively, I don’t cause the situation to escalate. This significant pause allows me to take a deep breath and let the energy flow. Once the tension is released, I can proceed calmly with a non-escalating response or simply change the subject. I may even calmly express my feelings at times, but guess what?

I often find that, in a relaxed state, I can see some truth in what the other person has said. If I can see a situation differently and speak or act differently, I can avoid creating more problems for myself.

The real advantage of a pause is that it gives us the opportunity to change our mindset. Our mind is the source of all knowledge, right? Not so when we are stressed. Science has proven that the more stressed we get, the less competent our mind becomes. A stressed mind is much less capable of making good decisions.

Body awareness is elusive in our go-go culture. Acquiring this skill requires patience and practice. But for me, it has been worth it.

When you are feeling angry or defensive, try to place the feeling in your body. Everyone feels these things differently. Awareness of this feeling will give you an advanced warning: it’s time to pause! This pause can help you avoid self-sabotage and/or expressing yourself in ineffective ways.

There are many situations when your body will signal you to pause, and this pause can help you change your mindset and affect your interactions in a significantly positive way.

Where do you notice the effects of stress in your body?

How might you remember to notice your physical responses and use this skill to initiate a pause in your everyday interactions to create better outcomes?

With respect and kindness,
Marie Knapp EdD
Coach Billy