The Mental Break Mothers Need: A Neuro-Reflective Pause

The Mental Break Mothers Need: A Neuro-Reflective Pause

What is a NeuroReflective Pause ™, and why is it so important for a mother’s mental health?

For years, in my private practice, as well as in my own parenting experience, I’ve tried to articulate a term for a very common mental health need among mothers. Almost every client I see who has young children feels depleted in a way she is challenged to explain. Physical exhaustion is a given. And it’s not about thinking too hard all day. Overwhelmed moms are seeking a reprieve from intention. They seek more inward-facing, restorative moments. I have coined a term for this kind of moment:

A Neuroreflective Pause

Such processing time, similar to daydreaming, or mindlessly surfing the internet, exists when output is not required — no reacting or strategizing, no interaction, no goal — and is a vital component of the brain’s healthy functioning.

In short, the brain needs time to simply digest the experiences of the day, without needing to respond.

Mothers in our culture are a prime example of those who have a deficit of neuroreflective time. Taking care of young children requires a type of mental stamina that challenges the most energetic and extroverted person. And even time away from attending to children’s needs generally becomes filled with tasks that require concentration. Mothers who are more introverted face a particular pain when faced with continually having to engage in the external world like this. A Neuroreflective Pause provides a means to step back, consciously, without the need to react, to anything.

I believe this conscious “off” time is as important as sleep. Without it, we are more prone to depression, anxiety, physical illness, and relationship turmoil.

So much of early childcare is about outward tasking and monitoring. In our culture of extroversion and immediate gratification, letting the mind wander even for a few seconds often comes with an implicit judgement of laziness. At worst, a moment of zoning out can put children in danger.  Therefore it is challenging to engineer regular Neuroreflective Pauses when children are in one’s care.

Long before parenting was so isolating, however, mothers had helpers – aunts and grandmothers, friends and older children, who were also nearby, attending to the younger children, so that the mother could take moments to process and reflect.

Neuroreflective time, where no output demands exist on the mother, and where she can either focus inward on her thoughts or “mindlessly” absorb information, is a way for the brain to recharge.

Do you need more Neuroreflective Pause time in your life? Here are a few tips:

-Protect your non-parenting time, such as the time after the children go to bed. Give yourself permission to watch bad television or scroll through your Instagram. Don’t sleep or schedule tasks, including interaction with others.

-Explain to your partner that neuroreflective time is essential for your mental health.

-Acknowledge that time off doesn’t always mean you are getting a Neuroreflective Pause if you are interacting with others, or have another goal to accomplish.

-Gain an awareness of when you need a Neuroreflective Pause. Symptoms of deficit include increasing irritability, depression, confusion, emotional outbursts, and a sense of overwhelm.

-Sometimes you can experience neuroreflective time when taking a walk or doing an undemanding project.

-See an experienced therapist to process your feelings and learn tools to help with your mental wellness.


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