breathe deeply

What’s So Hard About Breathing?

What could be simpler than breathing? We don’t have to think about it… it just happens even when we sleep. But guess what? Breathing to create a relaxation response may take some work and practice, especially for children. BUT it is well work the trouble and this is why:   Children who struggle with social challenges often live in an anxious state. When stressed, heart rates increase, blood is diverted away from the stomach to the muscles of the legs for flight, and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. This physiological response to stress is also known as the fight, flight or fight response.   How can we expect kids to remain seated in school, stay focused on a topic, respond to and play appropriately with peers, and learn when their nervous systems are working against them? We can teach them to breathe.   Deep breathing is so much more than relaxing. It can train the body to react differently to stressful situations. For example, when faced with frustration, anger, hurt, loneliness, fear, uncertainty and anxiety, breathing can help a child make wiser choices regarding how to respond in each circumstance.   However, it can be difficult to teach young children how to breathe. They often breathe quickly and shallowly as if in a race – who can breathe the loudest or fastest? They can’t see their breath and don’t have patience to slow down their breathing when their bodies are racing 90 miles per hour. In addition, many children who operate in this fight, flight or fright mode don’t possess the body awareness needed to understand what slowing and deepening their breath actually feels like.   We have been experimenting with ways to teach children the experience of inhaling and exhaling deeply while helping them notice and reflect on how this type of breathing affects their bodies and moods in the moment. We’ll be sharing thoughts and experiences using these strategies in upcoming blogs and would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences as well. In the meantime, just breathe…   photo by Amanda Hirsch https://www.flickr.com/photos/89917639@N04/