Judy Joseph-Mc Sween


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“The trap of busyness is so much a part of corporate and social

culture that many times it clouds our vision of what’s going on.

We expect to be busy; we don’t know what to do when we’re not. The trap of busyness causes us to move with such mindless speed that we’re like the proverbial chicken running around with its head cut off.”

— Judy Joseph-Mc Sween (Behavioural therapist and Time Out Specialist)

Parents often place their children in ‘time out’— a discipline technique that involves placing them in a very boring place for several minutes, disconnecting them from attention following unacceptable behaviours. But did you know time out was also needed for adults according to Trinidadian Behavioural Therapist and Time Out Specialist Judy Joseph-Mc Sween.

This type of time out, however, is not one of punishment or disciplinary action, as she explains, rather it is a much-needed practice to reset.

“A scheduled facilitated time out session period provides the space to pause, relax, reflect, and rejuvenate. It is an opportunity to resolve internal and interpersonal conflicts and find focus and clarity in a variety of situations,” Joseph-Mc Sween relates.

Pointing to the somewhat imposed self-isolation the COVID-19 pandemic forced with lockdowns and stay-at-home measures, Joseph-Mc Sween said this brought upon many a compulsory time out.

“Some tried to fill the void created by the lockdown with zoom parties, games nights, decluttering, and cooking. That season of “substitute busyness” has passed and the very thoughts and emotions that we have consciously and unconsciously sought to drown through busyness, are once more emerging,” she tells the Guardian Media.

These thoughts she said, usually involves asking one’s self-critical questions about both the long-term and short-term ‘make or break’ areas of one’s life. These may include looking at what an individual deems important to them, their purpose in life, their career goals, and of course, as the lockdown is lifted, how does one cope with the ‘new normal.’

Joseph-Mc Sween articulated, with the busyness of our daily lives, there are indeed several events that may go unnoticed—numerous patterns unfold that are not observed, words go unspoken, opportunities to celebrate are often missed and relationships are given very little opportunity to flourish.

“We plunge into our emails and meetings with a manic energy that forbids reflection, deeply honest conversations, and breaks from the routine. Many chronically busy people may not even be consciously aware of the extent to which the busyness trap controls their lives,” expresses Joseph-Mc Sween.

As a time out specialist who has applied the method to her own life a decade ago when she faced a major crossroad, Joseph-Mc Sween has been successfully using the time out technique with organisations, teams and individuals all of which and whom she claims has benefited greatly.

“We take time out not because we have time to spare, but because we realise that it is critical for performing at our fullest potential.”

She relates the time out programme was an amalgamation of contemplative practices, traditional organisational development concepts, and current neuroscientific research findings.

Some immediate benefits of using the time out approach she says includes the provision for a deep soul searching for the answers that lie within us, that perhaps we deliberately avoid. It helps in facing fears and anxieties and finding techniques for managing them; clarity and focus; increased emotional intelligence and management; the ability to resolve intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts; increased spiritual intelligence; the ability to find inner peace during turmoil; the ability to tap into inner wisdom and the ability to act from a compassionate and wise perspective.

Joseph-Mc Sween, notes the time out practice was also particularly important for young adults who were struggling to find their identity, experiencing challenges with authority and peer relationships, and making career decisions. She advises of its necessity in intimate relationships where couples wrestle with their personal and professional growth, expectations of each other, and their communication.