Do You Need to Give Yourself a "Time Out"?

At our family gathering, little Aaron, 2 1/2, was acting up. His parents told him to settle down or he would get a “time out.” Aaron didn’t settle down. So his father unceremoniously picked him up and carried him down the hall to his bedroom. He deposited him inside, said a few words to him, and shut the door. Aaron whimpered a little on the other side of the door, but, after a few minutes, he was quiet. He was settling down. Soon his father went back to the bedroom and, after saying a few words to Aaron again, he released him from his “time out.” Aaron scampered back to our family gathering all smiles.

time out boy

This little boy is having a “time out.”

Time out. What a great concept. It can be pretty effective with kids. But I was wondering, are “time outs” good for us adults too? If, for example, we are crabby, ornery, tense, or vindictive, should we give ourselves a “time out” to “settle down”? Perhaps if we withdrew from other people for a little while, went for a solo walk, got lost in a good novel, studied the clouds, or even reflected on the causes of our bad mood, then we would return to our regular life with a better attitude and demeanor.

Is prayer a time out? I think it is. During prayer we retreat from our everyday responsibilities (cooking, running to the store, working on a project) and we spend time with God. Consciously. Intentionally. Regularly. This prayer time is not an escape from our responsibilities. On the contrary, it is time to focus on our very real and major responsibilities: our relationship with God, our love for others, and the direction our life is taking by the choices we are making. (Perhaps reading this blog every week is one of your “time outs.”)

Friendship can be a “time out” too. Recently I went out to dinner with two good SND friends of mine. In addition to enjoying a great meal together, we caught up with each other’s life, we discussed some current issues, and we reminisced over some old photos we had brought along. And we laughed. A lot! As I drove home afterwards, I audibly thanked God for those two good friends who have walked so much of my life journey with me. Just being with them refreshed me, encouraged me, and put me in a better frame of mind—just like a “time out” should!

One of my favorite places to give myself a time out is on a bench in a park.

One of my favorite places to give myself a time out is on a park bench.

Jesus gave himself a “time out” every now and then. Although he was busy with his preaching, teaching, and healing, he took time out to pray. He also encouraged his disciples to take a “time out” with his words, “Come aside and rest a while.” Besides his apostles, Jesus had many good friends: Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Nicodemus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea, to name a few. To sustain such relationships, Jesus must have taken time out from his public ministry to be with his good friends. I can see him arriving unexpectedly at Lazarus’ house, plopping himself down on some cushions, and asking, “Martha, Mary–got anything to eat?”

The writer Hugh Prather wrote these wise words about solitude.  I think we could substitute “time out” for solitude here: “For me, solitude means putting parts of me back together—-the unifying of myself whereby I see once again that the little things are little and the big things are big….I believe that solitude is a profound and needed act of self-love and self-appreciation.”

What has been your experience with “time outs” for others and for yourself?

What kind of activities do you engage in that are really “time outs” for you?


  1. Kathleen Magiera on November 17, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Good one Sr. Melannie!

    A time out for me is walking my dog Ernie in the middle of the day. I get some fresh air and time to ponder the day.


  2. mary james on November 17, 2014 at 6:50 am

    Absolutely adults should take a time out if needed.
    I love the same ones you do–especially a good book, a walk, and
    dinner with friends! Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Andre Sequeira [Perth] on November 17, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Thank-you Sr. Melanie for reminding us to regularly take time-out in our lives. Your suggestions are so practical and useful. It is true that when we pray we are able to place the important aspects of our lives before God. We often treat time out as a luxury, when it is really a necessity to function effectively in this fast paced world. It is no surprise that Jesus himself regularly took tie out with his Father and also with his friends. A friend is a gift that we give ourselves. Thank-you Lord for so many opportunities to experience your presence in our lives.

  4. Diane on November 17, 2014 at 10:22 am

    I know I need time outs: for prayer, for appreciation/gratitude thoughts, for looking at photos of family (especially my 2 year old grandson), and getting away from all the time one can spend on the computer.

  5. Mary Schneider on November 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

    I find I get a double time-out bonus….when I pick up a book to read, I always fall asleep for a few minutes, so napping and reading. My prayer time is a special time out, but I admit I need to have more of this one, and less of the first. Thank you Sr. Melannie for this thought-provoking article.

  6. Ellen on November 17, 2014 at 11:01 am

    I have gotten in the habit of taking my dog out each night and letting her run in our quiet neighborhood. I look at the stars and thank God for the day gone by and all the people and things I’m grateful for. I never use this as a time to worry or ruminate or wonder in any way if God I listening. It’s just my time of gratitude and solitude. It also lets my puppy know its almost time for bed!

  7. Joy on November 17, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Time outs for me replenish my spirit…I need to withdraw & be alone
    so I am able to go back out into the world….it’s my balance…the quiet
    allows me peace.

  8. Carol McH on November 17, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Hi, Melannie,
    I love my cups of coffee breaks, early morning, mid-morning & mid-afternoon, best with a friend or two but often alone. These times help me stop and breathe and look outside to see where I have been and where I have to go.
    Carol McHenry

  9. Kathy Hassink on November 17, 2014 at 11:34 am

    Dear cousin – I often retreat to the warmth and comfort of my hot tub for a time-out. Its quiet and peaceful and often what’s making me grumpy or restless is my arthritis pain. The hot tub seems to make that vanish and when I get out, I’m refreshed in body and mind. 🙂 Love – Kathy

  10. Sister Gladys Marhefka on November 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    Hi Melanie and Everyone,
    I remember so well the dinner that we shared at Legal Seafood when you came to Lexington, MA.
    Thoroughly enjoyed the “Time out” reflection for that is where I am now in my life, needing some time with God. Reflecting on the clouds I am not so sure. I have been doing this for the past 6 months. Many of our clouds today are engineered by weather modifiers. Check out: and you will find out that our weather is being modified/manipulated and that our skies are being sprayed by toxic chemicals such as: strontium, barium, cadmium and aluminum.
    It is so sad. My phone is: 781-674-7445.

  11. Evelyn Allen on November 17, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    How timely, your “Time Out” blog. I just returned from two hours of a relaxing massage and facial. Feel like a new woman!!!

  12. Josita on November 17, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, Melannie. I learned early on that I can function(mind, body, heart,spirit) much better after spending time with friends or family.
    The “time out” that I experienced at your conference last week was invaluable and now I am enjoying your poetry in “When the Blue Heron Flies”. It was wonderful meeting you and being being nourished by your practical and inspiring words.
    Gratefully, Josita

  13. Cathy on November 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, Sr. Melannie. I just got home from a wonderful “time out” with my best friend, Robin. It was an unexpected Monday night dinner together. When I was driving home I realized how refreshed and happy I felt. How thankful I am for my wonderful friend.

  14. Barbara on November 18, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Time outs for me are as simple, sometimes as turning off radio, TV and “being in silence”. One of my other favorite time outs are watching the birds at my feeders.

  15. Patricia M on November 18, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Sister Melanie
    What a refreshing blog! With so many responsibilities in my life, I enjoy sitting in my sun porch with a cup of Irish tea and watching nature-the falling leaves, the scampering squirrels and the beautiful birds who are competing with the squirrels to get to the feeders. God is providing for them and me during this restful time.

  16. Sister Miriam on November 18, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    I find working jig saw puzzles are a great time out. I often say when I can’t put the puzzle pieces of life together, I can at least do so with a puzzle and then see the beautiful picture that is meant to be.

  17. Sr. Celeste Albers on November 20, 2014 at 4:35 pm

    A couple of timeouts that I do each day is checking to see what God has to share with me as the sun comes up and goes down. I see those as wonderful “love notes” from my all embracing God!

  18. Kathy on November 21, 2014 at 10:30 am

    You are absolutely right, we need those time outs!

    I love taking early morning walks to see the sunrise, but I also like creative times – I try to schedule a little time each evening after work and dinner etc. for some quilting time for me. I like the designing, puts me in touch with the feeling of God creating things, and my part in a little creation.

  19. Linda on November 22, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    Sister Melanie,
    The image of Jesus plopping himself down on a cushion and asking if there was anything to eat made me laugh! Somehow I think that Jesus really could be that relaxed and informal with his friends!

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