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How the “Power of the Pause” is Helpful with Emotional Dysregulation

Updated: Apr 2, 2023


The “power of the pause” is a strategy that can be used to manage emotionally charged situations, especially where emotional dysregulation (when someone is overwhelmed by emotion and reacts disproportionately) is a common occurrence.


This strategy entails everyone committing to taking a pause, disengaging, taking deep breaths, and taking a break to process and release emotions when they start to heat up. It is also a way to“reset”.


Key pillars to success are to lead with awareness, compassion, kindness, and love. Bystanders in the environment can use it as a way to help defuse the situation.


How it works:

  • All participants must be fully committed to the entire process as this is a supportive intervention and learning process which helps these individuals to learn to manage themselves in a healthy way in everyday situations.

  • The amount of time a pause is used is timed and the time is pre-set for these types of situations (usually 5-10 minutes).

  • A meeting time and place are designated for all parties involved to return back to.

  • Ideally, when this strategy is used consistently, those who have challenges with emotional dysregulation will become aware of their triggers and the sensations that begin when it starts to happen.

  • On the flip side, it is also beneficial for those who are not challenged by emotional dysregulation to learn the cues of when their loved ones are starting to become emotionally dysregulated. This way it can be a team effort, and everyone is on board with acceptance, love, and grace.

  • It is equally important for everyone to feel safe, have good boundaries, and apply immediate self-care strategies such as breath work, connecting with loving thoughts, memories, and feelings of any kind, and using positive affirmations.

  • Pre-planning to use this as a tool in these situations is essential. Make it a rule of thumb so it becomes habitual and familiar.

  • The goal is for the person with emotional dysregulation challenges to begin to recognize their triggers without shame or blame and the sensations and symptoms that occur when they begin to feel the dysregulation.

If you use the “power of the pause” with awareness, kindness, consistency, compassion, and love, it can support healthier communication, better relationships, and improved family dynamics. Like developing any skill or habit, the more you use it, the easier and more organic it becomes.


For assistance with this process please contact me.



Information contained herein is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any ailment or condition. Dr. Lisa Zaretsky. Ed.D, LCSW, LISW, C.Hyp makes no representation, express or implied, that information herein is applicable to any individual's particular situation. This information should not replace individual consultation with an appropriately qualified professional.



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