Breathing Calms the Mind
Breath work is an excellent and effective technique that you can practice anywhere and at any time. These exercises are wonderful for children of all ages once they are able to follow along, because they can be learned in a matter of a few minutes and create immediate benefits. There is also an interesting dual nature to breath work: on the one hand breathing is automatic, and on the other hand, you can control it. For people who have anxiety this is important because their anxiety creates a tendency to freeze, or hold one's breath, increasing the feeling that things are out of control. This easy technique is a great tool and breathing quickly becomes a way to self-manage and control outcomes.
Studies show a very effective way to calm oneself is to prolong your out-breath in a slow, controlled manner. So, when practicing the exercises that follow, keep that in mind. Here is an example of breath work. It can be done for two to ten minutes.
Sit cross-legged with your back straight. If you are on the floor, or outside, you might want to sit on a pillow for comfort.
If you and your child would rather sit on a chair, it is best to keep your feet on the floor in front of you.
Allow your hands to rest comfortably on your lap and let your thumb touch your middle fingertip.
Close your eyes if you would like, or focus on one point.
Begin to breathe easily and evenly, in and out, prolonging the out-breath.
Silently count each breath in as one count, and each breath out as one count, until twenty counts, or another even number. For example: Count 1 — breathe in; count 2 — breathe out; count 3 — breathe in; count 4 — breathe out.
To finish the meditation, take a deep breath in, and release. Stand up and stretch.
Counted or Rhythmic Breathing
Rhythmic breathing can increase oxygen supply and help the body feel as if it has re-established its own natural rhythm again. It is timed to the rhythm of your heartbeat. This can be a very short meditation to help in those stressful moments so you or your child can feel relaxed and calm again in short order. Here is how to do it:
Sit comfortably and put the second, third, and fourth fingers of your right hand on your left wrist to find your pulse.
Feel the pulse beat and when you and your child feel like you can connect your breath with the beat, start counting 1–2–3–4.
Continue mentally counting 1–2–3–4, 1–2–3–4 until you fall into a rhythm and can follow it without holding your pulse.
Then you can put your hands on your knees and continue.
You can also do this exercise without counting the pulse. Just a few moments of even breathing can give your child or you a chance to relax and get back in control of the situation again. This technique is great for your child especially before a test, trying out for a sports team, or when standing up in front of the class. It's also great for both of you when you are starting to feel anxiety. Taking a minute to concentrate on breathing evenly can stop those racing thoughts of “I can't take this one more minute.” This short time-out is an easy way to calm both your body and mind. It interrupts negative thoughts long enough for you to choose different thoughts, giving you control in a moment's notice.
Besides keeping you alive, breathing is restorative for the body. It can calm your nerves, slow your heart rate, and help your body clear toxins, release fear and tension, and, some believe, alleviate symptoms of illness.
The benefits of breathing fully and deeply in daily life are essential. The only caution is the possibility of hyperventilation. If, when you are breathing, you or your child feel lightheaded from taking in air, just stop for a minute, breathe regularly, and then continue.