The importance of how we breathe isn’t expressed enough in any part of our life and sometimes when starting breathing techniques people do not understand why they are so important… until they are educated about why. Here we will learn some facts about breathing, most importantly the importance of breathing correctly and how we can change our breathing patterns for the good of our mind, body and central nervous system.
- We have around 22,000 breaths a day and we don’t even have to think about
- How we breathe affects how we feel, and how we feel affects how we breathe,
this also affects our thoughts.
- When focusing on our breathing it is really important to do it right. It can help to
settle our busy mind and body.
- You can change your breathing at any time of the day, even if you are walking
around or in a busy place.
- Focused breathing helps us to be more mindful and settles our heart rate, busy thoughts, and central nervous system, and helps oxygen and blood flow around our body more effectively; imagine it being like a purifier.
Reflective activity: Think about how we breathe differently when we are: SHOCKED! ANGRY! EXCITED! SCARED! NERVOUS! and when experiencing other feelings, what happens to us physically? Do we exhale as well as inhale? Is our breathing deep or shallow, quick or slow?
It is important when you do breathing techniques to:
- Know that we need to breathe in through the nose for air to get around our bodies… if we breathe in through the mouth it doesn’t travel very far and this also makes our body and mind think we are worried or in danger.
- When we breathe in we should be taking in the air so our stomach should expand… a lot of children will gasp in and pull their tummies in taking in no air at all.
- When doing the focused breathing techniques, only do these for a few minutes at a time as children may be taking in too much air and they may feel light-headed.
- It is worth building up the time with these and doing little and often until you feel they are doing them correctly.
- It is better to breathe in through the nose instead of the mouth during the day at all times, but at a normal pace and not deeply; your mind and body will feel safe, oxygenated and more focused.
BREATHING TECHNIQUES. Plan for doing these techniques, you might choose to alternate and do one day each, all 3 at different times of the day, or focus on one per week. Breathing techniques are the most useful, beneficial and easy-to-do techniques that can help us to self-regulate, calm, feel energized, re-focus and everything mentioned in this section. Research has shown that it takes 12 weeks of breathing techniques every day for the central nervous system to reset after being highly stressed or experiencing mild/moderate trauma. Trying breathing techniques and not doing them regularly will not help so please try and fit them into your life and your child’s day as much as possible. After completing this course and possibly the other two available you will have tried a few breathing techniques, this is the time to practice and implement and work out which are your favourites that you can carry on with after completing the course.
Breathing technique 1-minute focus – Set a timer and see how many breaths you do in 1 minute. Count 1 as you breathe in, 2 as you breathe out, 3 as you breathe in etc. If you get to a high number then you’re in quite a stressful pattern of breathing. To be in complete relaxation mode you should count 12 breaths in 1 minute (we cannot sustain this breathing pattern in our day-to-day lives due to generally moving around, being busy, walking, talking etc).
Breathing technique Belly Breathing – Take a deep breath in through the nose and into the belly. Take a deep breath out through the mouth. Do this for 1 minute.
Breathing technique Add 2 – With this counting technique you can breathe in and count to a certain number; then when you breathe out do this for 2 seconds longer such as: Breathe in for 5 and out for 7 Breathe in for 6 and out for 8 Breathe in for 7 and out for 9
When not to focus on the breath! Breathing techniques can be good when adults and young people are distressed or triggered, firstly as we are getting the oxygen back into the body after probably not breathing well enough and secondly they can be a very good focus and distraction. However, if a child is having a panic attack this is possibly not a good time for them to try and breathe deeply and focus on their breathing, as they are dysregulated which can cause them more worry about the physical feeling they have. Panic attacks are caused by fast breathing and mixed messages to the brain or thoughts or events that are happening. As a parent, you need to work out what the best strategy is for your child when they are having a panic attack, but a good way to help them is to have a distraction technique… not to focus on what the feeling is or add more worry to the thought by trying to talk it out. Here are a few pointers for you to remember:
- If a child is distressed, or even if someone is having a panic attack, then is not the time to ask them to focus on breathing.
- They may not be able to take a breath in, or they may be triggered if they notice their breathing is fast.
- They need a distraction to come out of the brain-body-breath hijack and breathing can be done to go into Rest, Repair, Digest later once the feeling has passed to settle the central nervous system.
- Distractions can be… a hug, music, an activity, laughing, blowing something away, fresh air, a pet, using the senses in any way to get into the senses mode and out of the thinking mode… work out the best one for you/your child.
- If they’re upset give them time to cry and don’t stop the feeling from escaping… e.g. “It’s ok to cry! I would cry if I hurt myself, just let it out for a bit then let’s do something to make us feel better.”
- Just be there and listen and work things out together after it has passed, write it down if panic attacks are regular and see if there is a pattern, and also record what strategies are used.