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The 10-minute Pause Space script

The 10-minute Pause Space script

Find out how to use this script

Find out how to use this script to join with many others who are creating these essential ‘pop up’ spaces for their teams and colleagues to re-set, recharge and re-commit.

Open the Guide

Please stick to the words and the questions, which have been carefully crafted. Remember to have a timer to hand and that for 10 minutes you are in charge of the time.

Start here

Welcome. My name is [YOUR NAME], thank you for taking time to be here amidst all of the demands on you. We have 10 minutes together. Some people might join late, so let’s quietly welcome them in too.

(We imagine that you will most likely be in a standing circle, but you may choose to sit if your workspace lends itself to that, mindful of infection control restrictions. Some people may need to sit down.)

Let’s form the circle and take a moment to pay attention to the quality of our circle.

(Ensure people are included in the way the circle is formed. Holding the circle space is part of what makes people feel safe.)

We are going to be using the three teachable habits that lie at the heart of “Compassion Circle” practice:

  • Listening with a Quiet Mind
  • Asking Questions that Matter
  • Appreciating from the Heart


This should take about 1 minute

Before we start, let’s just take a moment to be still.


Notice the contact of your feet on the floor or whatever you are sitting on.

Congratulate yourself for being here.


Notice that in this moment, you are okay, and you’re not alone.


This time together helps us to connect with each other and reminds us to care for ourselves as well as everyone else. We are going to connect as a group and also in pairs. Please respect the privacy of what is shared with you during our time together, trusting that others will respect your privacy too.

Please signal your agreement to playing your part in this confidentiality by raising your hand. Thank you.

I am going to keep us to time and structure this Pause Space – quite strictly in fact! – it’s this structure that stops us running over and importantly keeps the space safe.

Listening pairs

This activity should take about 5 minutes

Let’s start. Turn to the person next to you and wave hello. If you don’t know the person, just quickly swap first names. We are going to take turns to think out loud uninterrupted, and then take a turn listening with a quiet mind and an open heart. You’ll each get a turn, and I am going to time 2 minutes each.

(Remember to join in if there are odd numbers).

Decide who is listening first and who is thinking out loud first.


When time is up, I will raise both my hands like this.

(Raise both hands high)

so when you see me do this, please do likewise.

(This is the gentlest and most effective form of crowd control we know!)

At that point, if you are the thinker, please bring what you are saying to a close.

Okay. If you are listening first, use the person’s name to ask the question ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ if your partner seems to run out of things to say, don’t worry, simply say ‘and what else?’

Remember your role is to listen, not to interrupt, and not plan what you might say when it’s your turn! Trust the process.

So, a reminder: ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’

Off you go.

Time 2 minutes – then raise both hands, wait till everyone stops speaking.

If people are still talking, say ‘okay thank you everyone, just bring that thought to a close’

And now we swap over, so if you have had a turn thinking out loud, it’s now your turn to listen to your partner.

A reminder, use the person’s name to ask the question ‘[NAME] what does caring for yourself mean to you?’ if your person runs out of things to say, don’t worry, simply ask ‘and what else?’

Remember your role is to listen without interrupting. Trust the process.

Off you go.

Time 2 minutes – then raise both hands, wait till everyone stops speaking.

If people are still talking, say: ‘Okay thank you everyone, just bring that thought to a close.’

Thank you.


This activity should take about 1 minute 30 seconds

Now, still in your pairs, we are going to take a moment to appreciate each other. We don’t always find it easy to voice our appreciations of others or to be appreciated, but let’s try. It might be something you already appreciate about that person if you know them, or something in what they said that you appreciated.

Working in your pairs, for no more than a minute in total, one person start by saying ‘One thing I appreciate about you is….’ and then swap after 30 seconds’

Time 30 seconds and then raise your hands and say:

Time to swap over, make sure you both give and receive appreciation

Time a further 30 seconds then raise both your hands, allow the pairs to quieten, and gently but firmly bring people’s focus back to the group as a whole, by saying:

Okay thank you everyone, just bring that thought to a close.

We don’t always create the chances to think out loud with a partner or to listen without thinking or interrupting. And appreciating and being appreciated takes practice, so thank you.

Check out

This activity should take about 2 minutes

I’d like to invite you back into the group now for our final couple of minutes together.

‘Please form a nice even circle’.

(Allow a moment for people to turn back into the circle).

Let’s check out of our time together today remembering that we are all human and that you and your well-being matters. We are going to go around the circle inviting you to take a moment to focus on your intention as you leave this space. Remember just share whatever you feel happy to, and it’s okay to pass.

So, to our final question, and to hear from everyone, just use a couple of words in your reply, ‘To be wise, kind and compassionate towards myself I will…’ and anyone can start

(remember then go around to the left and check back with anyone that passed, including yourself when it gets to you).

Thank you everyone, that’s the end of the 10-min Pause Space. I’ve really appreciated your commitment, honesty and courage.

(add anything else you’ve particularly appreciated).

To anyone that has appreciated this time, and wants to find out what other support is available, please take a look at NHS People; people.nhs.uk . Do share this practice with others, and on social media if you found it helpful; use the tag #10minPauseSpace when you share the link.

This 10-min Pause Space has been developed by Andy Bradley, his long-time trusted colleagues and Laura Simms. Laura, a nurse by profession, has worked in healthcare for 32 years and hopes this version is accessible and helpful to all compassionate and inclusive leaders, whatever their role.

This offer is not ‘validated’ in any formal way but rather distilled from other practices and widespread experience from clinicians and colleagues. We encourage you to try it and see for yourself. It is approved for widespread use in the NHS.

Andy Bradley (recognised in 2012 by Nesta and The Observer as one of Britain’s 50 New Radicals), has been developing and sharing Compassion Circles for over 10 years. Compassion Circles have been adapted for use in Aneurin Bevan University Health Board where over 1000 healthcare staff have participated in rounds over the last 5 years. The Welsh Government are now sponsoring the roll-out of Compassion Circles which are known in Wales as ‘Taking Care Giving Care Rounds’. Evaluation indicates that the experience is highly valued. Compassion Circles have also become an integral part of the Compassionate Mental Health gatherings offered as a space for transformation and dialogue in Wales.

Non-urgent advice: Getting more help and wellbeing/mental health support

We know that even at the best of times the emotional labour of working in health and social care can lead to compassion fatigue and burnout. If you or your teams recognise that more help would be valuable, please access the latest offers on together.leadershipacademy.nhs.uk and find something that suits you.