Yes, You Can Help Children (and YOU) Calm Through Breathing

You know the ad “Got milk?” For parents and caregivers, I think there needs to be an ad, “Got stress?”

Think about how stressful parenting can be!

How often do you stop to consider you may be on total stress overload from the pressures, demands and requirements of healthy parenting? Even thinking about how stressed you are can probably cause more stress—and its best friend—anxiety.

And how about for kids?

How stressful are their lives? How much pressure do they feel on a daily basis to meet expectations, perform, learn to socialize, avoid making mistakes or breaking rules in a world filled with temptations?

How anxious are many children today? I suspect their stress and anxiety levels run pretty high.

Recently, I came across several interesting websites that focus on the power of breathing to reduce anxiety and promote mental health, and it occurred to me that parents and also children might benefit from learning more about this. Specifically, they may benefit by learning specific breathing techniques they can easily incorporate into their everyday lives.

Last December, the website Neuroscience News offered some fascinating information about the impact of intentional breathing on memory and fear. Stated in the article is: “Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior.”

The authors’ state it is the rhythm of breathing that actually creates electrical activity in the brain to enhance emotional judgments and memory recall. They also share that breathing through the nose versus breathing through the mouth makes a big difference.

One of the researchers stated that “When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network,” which means that some of the fear systems in the brain are impacted by breathing in a positive way.

Got anxiety?

Another article from anxieties.com provides information about ways people can learn specific breathing skills to help counter anxiety.

The author says that: “By shifting your breathing rate and pattern, you can stimulate the body’s parasympathetic response. This is the body’s equally powerful and opposite system to the Emergency Response and is often called the relaxation response.”

In a TED talk entitled “Breathe to Heal,” Max Strom adds more specific reasons for learning to breathe in ways that promote calming and healing from anxiety. In addition to sharing information about the impact of holding in stress often associated with unresolved grieving, he teaches his audience a very deliberate and effective breathing technique that invites the brain, mind and body to become calmer. He speaks to many business professionals who can live very anxious lives.

But I come back to my original question.

Aren’t both parents and children living under clouds of stress on a regular basis?Wouldn’t they benefit from applying these techniques in their own stress-filled lives?

Max Strom suggests folks need to learn effective, stress-reducing breathing even before they try things like meditation and yoga.

Breathing, using the specific techniques recommended by these experts, may be an effective way to at least reduce some daily stress parents experience. Parents can teach these techniques to their children, too. Then they would have the same tools to help them reduce their unhealthy stress responses that often worsen to anxiety.

Learning then using these techniques is relatively easy (we have to breathe thousands of times every day – why not make that breathing work in a positive way for us?)  It also doesn’t cost any money, and there really isn’t anything to lose by giving it a try.

And when parents invite their children to join with them in using intentional breathing techniques, there can be a beautiful opportunity to share in the relief of feeling and being less anxious and stressed.

Invitation to Reflect

  1. If you tried the breathing suggested by Max Strom, what do you notice? Are you willing to try using this technique on a regular basis to help reduce your anxiety and calmness?
  2. Think about ways you might explain the benefits of conscious breathing to your children. How might you use the information and skill to help them? Are you comfortable both teaching it to them and joining them in practicing it?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network

Source articles : Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear; Neuroscience News, December 7, 2016, and http://www.anxieties.com/57/panic-step4#.WP1bSme1vI, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lb5L-VEm34

Image source: http://swagactu.com/5-choses-seules-personnes-hyper-emotives-peuvent-comprendre.html


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