Slow Breathing

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Slow Breathing

Controlling breathing is an important and often under-rated skill in managing anxiety and other overwhelming emotions. Anxiety and fear can quickly cause hyperventilation, where the body breathes too rapidly. This in turn can lead to respiratory alkalosis as the reduce carbon dioxide in the body makes the blood more alkaloid. This can cause any or all of the following symptoms: feeling dizzy, faint or weak; tingling in the lips, hands or feet; and headaches. It is important to slow down the breathing to relieve these symptoms. Of course, avoiding them in the first place is preferable and so teaching and reinforcing slow breathing exercises before someone is feeling stressed is essential.

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What do I need to do?

You can do this anywhere but it can be easier if you sit or lie down
Try to breathe gently through your nose
Breathe in while counting slowly to four in your head
Wait a second then breathe out while you slowly count to four
Repeat for four minutes

How do I know if I'm doing it right?

Listen to your breathing - it should be smooth and gentle
Feel your tummy just under your ribs - it should rise and fall slowly as you gently breathe in and out

What else can help?

Try closing your eyes - if you feel comfortable doing so
Try listening to some quiet music
Think of a very happy memory
Practice this everyday - don't wait until you need it

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Other activities that promote breath control

Blowing Bubbles

The skill involved in successfully blowing bubbles requires slow and gentle exhalations of breath. It can also be highly motivating and fun for younger children. Running around chasing bubbles is also a useful way of regulating breathing.

Blowing out candles

Another simple way of getting children to think about their breathing is by getting them to blow out a candle. This strategy involves relighting the candle each time they blow it out and moving it a little further away. This in turn requires increasingly deeper breaths and controlled blowing to reach the candle.

Singing

Singing out loud requires breath control and may have its own calming benefits too. It doesn't matter how tuneful or not the singing is, just let them enjoy it.

Reading out loud

Just like singing, reading out aloud requires breath control. The book is also a distraction from any anxious thoughts and feelings. Reading a favourite book or reciting funny poetry can help them stay calm.

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Resources

Slow Breathing

Slow Breathing

The above instructions in a print ready A4 instruction sheet format.

Slow Breathing Cards

Slow Breathing Cards

Summarised slow breathing instructions on handy sized cards.

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You may also be interested in the following pages:

Counting In Categories

Emotional Regulation

Visualisations

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