“Just Breathe.” Easier said than done hey?
When your breathing shallows, your palms start to sweat and your head reminds you of all that can go wrong the last thing you feel you can do is to just stop and breathe but, this is exactly what you need to do. Just stop and focus on your breath and slow down your breathing. This will help the mind and body to deactivate the Flight or Fight response that has been initiated and return you to a state of calm able to tackle the task at hand.
Below are some breathing exercises for the whole family that will help you do just that. Pick your favourites and practise them regularly when you are in a state of calm so that you can slip into them easily when that state of stress starts to sneak in.
Belly Breathing The diaphragm is the primary breathing muscle and sits just under the lungs. Belly breathing exercises help to exercise this primary muscle and place less stress on the chest and secondary muscles that are not actually designed for breathing. Simply inhale through the nose and expand the belly (rather than the chest) exhale through the mouth and squeeze the belly to release all the air out of your lungs. Repeat up to 10 times.
Box Breathing or 4 Count Breathing for kids
Try 4 count breathing (or for our younger kids try 3 counts). Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4. Repeat 3 more times. Use a pinwheel or party blower to practise at home. Simply inhale, hold, and then exhale blowing the pinwheel or party blower. The more our kids practise this at home when they are calm the easier it will be for them to implement this when they are starting to get stressed. You can also use a straw in a glass of water or blowing bubbles in the same way. Inhale through the nose for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, exhale through the mouth for a count of 4. When they have become professionals at this, increase the hold and exhale to 5 or 6 counts.
4-7-8 Breathing for Adults
This exercise works in the same way as our kids’ 4 count breathing, we are just holding and exhaling for a longer period of time. Inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and then exhale through the mouth for a count of 8.
(This assists in internal cleansing by clearing out larger amounts of carbon dioxide. Best performed outside in fresh air).
- Breathe in for the count of five as you raise your arms horizontally above your head till the back of your hands to meet. (For an advanced version, raise your heels at the same time as your arms).
- Exhale for a count of five, lowering your arms to the side.
Repeat several times
One Minute Meditation
Meditation allows you to live in the moment, to calm yourself and to regulate your breathing. Simply breathe in and breathe out (breathe into your belly if you can). Just concentrate on your breath. Every time your mind wanders just bring it back to your breath. Breathe in and breathe out. One minute is all it takes to reset the mind and calm the body. You should get about 16 breaths in one minute for a healthy adult or about 25 breaths in a primary school aged child so just count your breaths. Breathe in, one, breathe out. Breathe in, two, breathe out and continue for one minute. Audio and Visual clip can be found here.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Simply breathe in and tense your feet muscles, breathe out and release the muscles, release the tension. Breathe in and tense your calf muscles, breathe out and release the muscles, release the tension. Continue up the body finishing with a whole-body tense and release. This is a great relaxation exercise to teach our kids some emotional regulation as it enables them to realise what their body feels like when it is relaxed as opposed to stressed or tense.
A full written script can be found here and the audio version here.
© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Written by Kim Norton 28th October 2022.