Julie Learner, LCSW


TIME OUT: Read this before you MELT DOWN!




Do you remember the last time you had a real tantrum? The kind that threw you way off center and made you feel like smoke was coming out of your ears? Maybe this happened many years ago, and maybe it was last week. Either way, strong feeling happens to everybody, and truly, there is no way around that. For this reason, one of my favorite tools in mindfulness practice is the TIME OUT chair. No, not an actual chair, but a figurative place where feelings go to take a chill, catch their breath, and wait it out until morning.

Next time you hit a wall and are up against horrible frustration and  truly about to lose it, try putting this feeling “in the TIME OUT chair”.   This is how it works…


  1. You aren’t asking the feeling to leave. Resistance is a surefire way to make that feeling come back at you with a vengeance! Rather, allow the feeling to sit on the sideline where it belongs, not in a place of honor.  Acceptance allows some space from the feeling.
  2. Remind yourself that you are NOT the feeling you are experiencing. Separating yourself from the difficult feeling allows you to reconnect with all the other parts of you. You are many parts, and many thoughts and feelings. These tough ones are just showing up now. Don’t let them define you.
  3. Ask yourself who you are and what you truly value. Pick a part of yourself that can act as a guide in this moment. Maybe it is integrity, or maybe it is courage. This strong value is as much a part of you as the frustration, anger or doubt. Why not remember that you can define yourself any way you want to?
  4. Take action towards the value you choose. The difficult feeling has most likely not disappeared. It is still sitting in the timeout chair. Pick something to DO that will move you forward into the next moment with a better objective than your rough and tough difficult feeling would. I won’t tell you this is easy, but I will tell you it is possible, especially with practice, patience and commitment.  Think about what you value and ask yourself… what action step would it take to move towards this value?  Each baby step then becomes a step in the right direction for the more powerful version of YOU.
  5. Take a look at the timeout chair. Maybe the frustration is fading. Honestly, maybe it will never fade. Either way, do you want this feeling running your life? Continue taking action towards your powerful values and allow the feeling you have put on the side to remain on the sidelines.


It is truly all about the choices we make. Choosing mental toughness takes practice and discipline, but it is a reality that leads to great power. Why not go down that road today?


4 Responses

  1. Mary Ann O'Kelly says:

    Great advise. I learned all of these steps from you and they certainly have worked in my life. I occasionally go to the “time ou chair” by journaling to relieve the everyday stress in my life. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without your positive inspiration and hope for a chance at happiness in my life.
    A friend forever, love

  2. Monica says:

    Great suggestions and I appreciate the options of dealing with tough feelings. I will do my best to give them a try next time I experience a blow up. Thanks Julie!

  3. Brenda says:

    This is the best advice and makes so much sense!

  4. Danielle says:

    Well said Julie! You hit the nail on the head. Mental toughness is most difficult and the time out chair is definitely something I Will remember to use when the situation arises.

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