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ealthy Computing Tips

Healthy Computing: Bathroom Break

© Erik Peper PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Healthy Computing Tips by Erik Peper PhD. View all columns in series
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 spot.

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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About The Author
Erik Peper, Ph.D. is an international authority on biofeedback and self-regulation. He is Professor and Co-Director of the Institute for Holistic Healing Studies, Department of Health Education, at San Francisco State University. He is President of the Biofeedback Foundation of Europe (2005) and past President of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.......more
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