Activites to calm

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Activities to calm

On this page you will find a range of activities that can be helpful in regulating emotional well-being. These are primarily for maintaining calm and relaxed states of mind rather than in the immediate de-escalation of acute episodes of anger, anxiety or other strong emotional difficulties. However, they can be effective in helping to avoid such episodes in a number of ways.

Firstly, by building in a range of calming activities in to each day; the individual starts or returns to a more comfortable baseline of emotional arousal. This is turns makes them more able to deal with challenging situations and contexts.

Secondly, before the individual reaches the point of 'meltdown' they can be redirected towards a calming activity. Ideally, self-awareness of the individual's emotional arousal level should lead to self-management and appropriate choices towards a de-escalating and calming activity. However, for children and young people this self-awareness is not always developed and opportunities for them to self-manage may be restricted, particularly in educational settings. In these cases, it is important for adults working with and supporting these individuals to monitor and manage emotional arousal. (See also rating scales.)

Thirdly, the calming activities are also useful for those around the individual. For example, parents are better able to cope with the daily challenges of parenting when their baselines of emotional arousal are not elevated. The same applies to professionals and other adults who work with children.

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Breathing - Colouring - Doodling - Drawing - Reading - Running - Swimming - Visualisations - Walking - Warm Bath (This article is currently under construction with new strategies to be added)

Breathing Exercises

Learning to regulate breathing is really important as the physical symptoms of anxiety and panic are often a direct result of hyper-ventilation. A full article giving advice, stragegies and resources is available.

Colouring (Coloring)

Colouring in shapes and patterns can be very relaxing. To do it right it requires attention and care and so can be quite absorbing. At the same time, it is not cognitively demanding freeing up the brain for either mind wandering (day dreaming) and/or unconscious or conscious processing (thinking through) of worries and anxieties. A few colouring sheets are easy to carry and have ready for when necessary.


Teachers are not always happy to see their students doodling in class. They may feel that they are not paying attention. However, some research suggests that the opposite is true and that those that doodle are often more tuned in as listeners compared to their peers. Again doodling is a movement displacement activity which supports students with sensory needs around movement including many ADHD individuals.


Many people find drawing relaxing and like colouring it can be absorbing whilst not necessarily cognitively challenging. It is also easily resourced with paper and pencil.


A book can provide an easy opportunity to escape the stresses of the moment. Whether it is escaping into the fantasy world of a novel or being absorbed by a non-fiction book on your favourite topic; books are generally acknowledged to be a relaxing past-time. Parents of pre-school children often carry books around with them so they are to hand when required. Older children can also benefit from having access to a favourite book when out and about or in school.


Most children benefit from opportunties to run about and get rid of 'excess energy'. Like with other physical exercises, running helps regulate breathing, carbon-dioxide levels in the blood and relaxes muscles. Running can also be very useful for some children with sensory needs, particularly those requiring increased movement stimulus. In schools, younger students get opportunities at playtime (recess) to run about. In secondary education this tends not to happen, which is missed opportunity for meeting many students needs.

Sensory Input Reduction

At times we can all feel overwhelmed by the busyness of life and wish to seek a quiet place to close our eyes. For those with sensory hypersensitivity everyday can feel like they're under attack from too much stimulus. Schools can be particularly challenging places where rules prevent opportunities for students to seek out less stimulating places. Identifying these students and making appropriate accommodations in school can help them remain calm or return to calm when emotionally aroused. Seating these students so they are facing blank walls away from windows, doorways and footfall areas can be useful. Some students may also benefit from noise cancellation headphones or listening to personal music. See the articles on sensory needs for further advice and links to strategies.


Many people find swimming to be an activity that makes them feel better. The total immersion in water supports the body in ways that are not achieved in other sports. It is also a very different sensory experience which some children including those with sensory needs find calming. Obviously, it is only calming for those that feel confident in the water and enjoy the sensory experience.


Focussing the mind on a positive memory where you felt happy, safe and secure can be very useful in regulating emotional well-being. A full article giving advice, stragegies and resources is also available.


Getting outdoors into a different environment is really important and walking helps to regulate breathing, improve blood flow and reduce muscle tension. These all help to promote a more positive mental state. It is not alway convenient to head off for a long walk in a park or the countryside. However, simply adding more walking into the daily routine can help: walking to the local shops; walking to school or if it is too far, parking the car a few roads away (getting off bus or train a stop or two early) and walking the last kilometre or two.

Warm Bath

For many of us, the opportunity to wallow in a warm bath at the end of a stressful day is very appealing. The same is true for many children. Bubbles, bath oils and scented candles can all be part of the experience if desired.

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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


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