Emotional CPR: Catch Pause Repair

One thing that I have learned as a psychology professor and former psychologist is that “simple things on repeat” have the greatest impact on our health and happiness. This is why I want to share a sustainable model of emotional and mental health habits called CPR: Catch Pause Repair.

CATCH

What Triggers You?

Catch yourself before a stress response escalates by becoming more aware of what provokes you.

Make a list of situations that you find yourself overreacting to over the course of the day.

Make a List

It could be that you are always in the same argument with a sibling or a family member. It could be a heightened response to the slightest criticism from your boss. It could be about money.

Pick One Thing

From that list, narrow it down to one item that triggers you the most.

Something that you almost have an out-of-body reaction to.

For example, you come home after work after a long day of meetings and find your home in complete disarray. You are all set to make dinner and discover that the food you had planned to cook is no longer in the fridge.

Nothing is as you had planned it, and you find yourself angry and upset over and above the issue at hand.

Catch Yourself

This is a sign to catch yourself and move quickly into pause mode.

It’s not the situation alone that is distressing you, it’s everything that led up to that moment.

“Health is a daily practice, not a 30-day diet.”

PAUSE

Pause and take a time-out when you feel the physical sensations of stress begin to escalate.

Take a Beat

Time-out

After catching yourself, you move into a pause mode by removing yourself from the situation.

It could be for 60 seconds or 60 minutes.

The key is that you become conscious and aware of the physical sensations behind your overreaction to the situation.

Conscious Awareness

The idea is that when you overreact to something, you are not reacting to the present moment, you are reacting to something from the past.

Whether it be earlier in the day, being stuck in traffic on the way home, or years ago when your parents argued repeatedly over dinner.

The Power of Now

The pause allows you to tune into your body, take a deep breath, and come back into the present moment.

REPAIR

Repair the root source of the heightened stress response which is often physiological in nature.

Nurture Yourself

The repair portion of the CPR model is an ongoing commitment to your mental and physical health and well-being, including tending to daily unmet needs.

This could include better sleep, less time on technology, increased physical exercise, and more time outdoors.

Catch — Pause — Repair ♥️


First Published in The Drive Magazine, Issue 145

Videos of Emotional CPR

15 Minute CPR Keynote Talk — Watch Here

4 Minute Video Overview of CPR Model — Watch Here

22 thoughts on “Emotional CPR: Catch Pause Repair

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    1. Thank you VJ. This is always my hope when it comes to writing and videos. Simple and sustainable. We all need a double dose of emotional calm and repair these days. including me! Especially mid-semester… “Doctor, Heal Thyself” 😉

  1. Your site looks dynamic; it stands out, hooks you, and reels you in! I love the anagram – ‘CPR.’ Well done. Not only psychological health food but a gratifying solution to a common (I think) issue with all of us. Don’t stop; we love hearing from you. Blessings, Peter.

    1. Thank you Peter 🙏

      My psychology students … and their professor … need daily reminders to tap back into power of the present moment.

      Similar to the “Call – Response” pattern in Music. If we pay attention to the moment (the call), we are called back to the divine power (the response) that was placed within us the moment we were born.

      CATCH
      PAUSE
      REPAIR

      p.s. We write what we need to (re)learn… daily. 🌍☀😎

  2. Brilliant! The concept behind CPR–catching myself before my emotional triggers take me away in a whirlwind of crazy, pausing to breathe and recognize this is not the real issue, and repairing my response–is the basis of spiritual warfare. I love how you connect with the triggers and limbic system and emotional responses. So much to think about. Thank you for laying this out so precisely.

    1. I love that you watched the videos too! The article, keynote, and CPR video go hand in hand.. Thank you Dayle. It helps me to see which parts ‘hit home’ for people. So that I can begin to create more ideas in psychology. My goal is make complex psychology theories simple and accessible to everybody. 📕 🌎 ❤️

  3. Excellent Andrea , I pause often, 🙂 and I am often catching myself on things which trigger me, and to change my perception of them. I take myself off into ‘My repair mode’ which is taking myself out into nature or absorbing myself in my crafts or some meditation.. So I give myself space to BE…

    Loved this post and many are in need of some calm healing balm right now..
    Sending Love and well wishes.. And thank you, for sharing your expert CPR..
    Much love 🙂

  4. Excellent suggestion! This post is pedagogy in action. (yep, I learned a new word.)

    I used a similar method just yesterday – but with this outline, I have something to refer to in the future.

    Lately, I’ve been noticing and evaluating my feelings. And yesterday, I traced my source of frustration past the person who triggered it to the actual problem.

    The old me would have been mad at the person for the rest of the day. But as soon as I figured out that all they did was alert me to the source – I had nothing but gratitude towards them.

    I then began to figure out how to solve the problem. Now, of course, solving the problem is more complicated than being angry – but it’s way more productive.

    Thank you for creating this teachable moment. You are a great educator!

    1. Reading your words = most fantastic way to begin my week! Thank you. Your deep reflections and applications about Emotional CPR give me greater insight into how I can support my students — in and out of the classroom. Including you! 🙏 📖 💗

  5. The part that jumps off the page for me is how much triggers are about the past – not the present. Thank you for this. A true wake up call indeed.

    1. Thank you Khaya! I initially developed CPR for a college initiative on sustainability. The focus on all their projects to date were on sustainability in the traditional sense — environment etc.

      So when they asked me to participate, I dug deep into my training and and work as a psychologist (1998-2016) and thought, what do I need + what do clients need to sustain themselves in between therapeutic sessions: Emotional CPR.

      A simple technique wakes us up and makes us conscious and aware of our surroundings and memories and triggers. One simple thing, changes everything.

      Have a fabulous week Khaya! filled with poetry and creativity.. the ultimate CPR

      Dr. D 👠 💥

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