The world would be a much better place if we normalized timeouts for adults.
Wouldn’t it be great if when you’re having a hard time, you could just stop what you’re doing, take a break, and do what you actually want to be doing in that moment? Like curling up in a fuzzy blanket, eating chocolate, taking a nap, or cuddling a cat?
These are all examples of what people do to try to comfort or soothe themselves. Unfortunately, there is no magic pause button for life, or a socially acceptable way to hang a sign on your forehead that says, “Sorry, we’re now closed. I currently don’t have the emotional bandwidth for your issues.”
The problem is, most adults don’t actually know how to self regulate in the moment in appropriate ways that don’t include some form of raising a white flag and retreating to safety.
The current generation of adults were all raised by behaviourists; obedience was expected without question, and bad behaviour was punished. Period. There was no “gentle” or attachment style parenting yet, or recognition that acting out is a sign a child is struggling with big emotions and needing help, not correction.
So basically what we ended up with is a whole generation of grownups with-little-to-no idea of how to self regulate.
Every person has the capability to cope with stress to a varying degree, but no matter how well you handle stress, chances are there are moments when you’ve reached your limit and your emotions “leak.”
People show this in both normal and healthy ways that have perhaps been stigmatized, such as crying, or in more maladaptive ways such as addictions, explosive behaviour, or worse.
People more acclimatized to long-term stress may have more subtle tells to their emotional state, such as the colours they choose to wear, biting their nails, how much coffee they drink, or hair pulling, etcetera. (See, we’re all still throwing tantrums, just in smaller ways.)
Now, while a timeout for a child is arguable just isolating, punitive and does little to help a child understand their feelings and learn to better cope with them, timeouts for adults could be game-changing.
Imagine a workplace culture where it was completely un-noteworthy to leave your desk for 10 minutes, gather yourself privately and return back to work, more collected and ready to be productive.
Or a partner recognizing when your social battery has ran out and allowing you some guilt-free time to yourself to recharge.
Perhaps it could be normalized to use essential oils, crystals, vitamins or take your medications at work, or whatever it is that helps you get through the day without feeling any shame. How amazing would that be?
Because while we’re are still human, we’re going to have feelings, and sometimes they are harder to manage and keep a lid on — and sometimes it should be OK not to.