Healthy Computing: Bathroom Break

During stressful situations we sometimes freeze and acquiesce to whatever
is said. We forget what we know or want to say. Giving in during a
stressful situation is often the result of being overwhelmed, feeling
powerless, or just wanting to get through the difficult moment. After,
when we have a quiet moment, we usually see the situation more clearly and
ruminate on the shoulda, coulda, wouldas. Feeling helpless and out of
control can increase the risk for symptoms and may limit recovery.
Interrupt the acquiescence trance and improve your response to stressful
situations when you take a BATHROOM BREAK.


The moment you sense that familiar powerless feeling when you feel the pit
of your stomach dropping or knotting stop talking or acting. Excuse
yourself for a moment, saying you’ll be right back. A bathroom break is the
only break for which others excuse us (who wants to have a messy floor?).

Once in the bathroom, stop, exhale slowly and focus on regaining
effortless diaphragmatic breathing (remember, a full exhalation is the
most important part of breathing). As you breathe calmly, splash water on
your face or put a cool, wet towel on your forehead or back of your neck.
Ask yourself: What do I want to do? What is the right thing to do? When
you feel calmer and clearer, return to the situation.

Practice calming yourself in moderately stressful situations. The habit
of freezing under stress is so automatically conditioned that it appears
to have a life of its own. Practice being calm by mentally rehearsing.
See yourself calmly weathering the storm of tension by just saying, I need
to go to the bathroom. First repeat it in your mind’s eye, and then
repeat it by actually speaking and getting up and going to the bathroom.
When you rehearse it enough, it becomes as automatic as freezing on the

Optional: go back over past memories where you had that sinking feeling
and see yourself interrupting your old response pattern and taking a
bathroom break.

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021