Time Out is a technique that interrupts stress and tension building during the early stages of a conflict. It provides guidelines to structure your behavior to release tension and to provide alternative ways of responding (versus reacting). It also allows you to regain control of your feelings and emotions.

It is important that you follow the Time Out procedures carefully. Many think they have used Time Outs before, but upon checking their actual motive and use of the Time Out was to escape, manipulate or get revenge against someone. Time Outs are for you, never against someone else.



1) Be aware of your body tension – Your body tells you what you feel. What do you feel? Shaky, sweaty palms, tight muscles around forehead, jaws, neck or shoulders, tense stomach, numb, hot, cold? Whatever your body signals, this tells you that Rage is not far away. A Time Out is needed. 

2) Chose a Time Out Indicator – This is a simple statement, spoken aloud: ” I am angry (or tense, overwhelmed, etc.), I need a Time Out for myself.” Then do it! Some are helped by visualizing a Stop Sign to Stop Themselves, to interrupt their process, to say the Time Out Indicator. It works!

3) Leave the room immediately – We must leave the presence of the other person to practice our Time Out. Do not escalate the situation by slamming a door, getting in the last word, punching a wall, giving nasty glances, etc. Remember: Time Outs are for you. NO EXCUSES. Leave the house or building completely and stay apart for at least a half-hour, if possible.

4) Your body needs to expend energy – Do the following: walk, briskly/run/ride a bicycle/weight lift/exercise/etc. Do not drive, visit a person of the opposite sex, or use drugs or alcohol. Try to release the energy in your body. Assess what your true needs might be at this point: “I need to listen better. I need to reaffirm my concern calmly. I need peace. I need sleep or rest. I need to maintain my dignity. I need to wait and be patient. I need more information.” Use relaxation techniques.

5) Be aware of your “Self-Talk” – Listen to the quiet, secret, negative messages you say to yourself: “I hate him/her. I’m stupid. I always screw up. I’m bad. I’m wrong. I can’t do it right. Nobody cares. If she/he says __________ then I will react! I can’t stand this! Etc. Note: These negative messages are so deeply ingrained that we do not even hear them. They are like tape-recorded messages in our minds, running on fast forward -just squiggly sounds. But the messages are there. Stop and listen to your mind. You can replace these negative messages with positive messages: “I am okay. I can stay calm. I am a good person.” Saying them aloud helps us to tape over the old messages.

6) Identify the Fears and Hurts which led to your anger or anguish. This is a good time to ask yourself the Four Questions: (1)”What am I thinking?” (2)”What am I feeling?” (3)”What do I need?” (4) “What do I have to do to meet that need?”

7) Decide what the significant issue (or issues) is and think of possible solutions before you return. Discuss this with your partner when he/she is ready. Or wait.

8) Practice Time Outs for 10 minutes at least twice each week. This will give you the instincts to use them when you are tense. If your situation prohibits practicing or using a regular Time Out, be creative. Use deep breathing. Remember, you are always in control. Peace.


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