Breathing Techniques for Stress Management

In my last post I discussed why breathing is a wonderful tool to use for stress management. In this post I am going to highlight some breathing techniques that have worked wonderfully with the children in my classrooms. They have been so engaging that the children usually voluntarily perform the techniques on their own when they become stressed. Some of these techniques are adapted from Conscious Discipline by Dr. Becky Bailey.

  • S.T.A.R. Breathing – S.T.A.R. stands for Smile, Take a deep breath, And Relax. The technique involves raising your arms up to the sky when you are breathing in and lowering them to your sides as you are breathing out. Pairing the movement to the breathing helps get blood flowing to the brain, as well.
  • Balloon Breathing – This breathing technique is bound to be a classroom favorite. The technique: interlace your fingers on top of your head. As you breathe in, raise your arms like you are inflating a balloon. As you exhale, purse your lips to make a ‘pfffft’ sound, similar to the sound a balloon makes when you let the air out.
  • Smell a Flower, Blow the Petals – Students should imagine that their finger is a flower and pretend to smell it as they inhale. Then, as they exhale, they should pretend that they are blowing the petals of the flower away.
  • Smell a Cookie, Blow the Soup – This technique is similar to ‘Smell a Flower, Blow the Petals’ except that students are pretending to smell a cookie and blow soup instead.

There are a couple of key things to remember when it comes to using breathing for stress management:

  • Encourage children to breathe slowly and be mindful of completely filling their lungs with air. One thing that I have learned to do is ask students to put one hand on their belly so that they can feel their stomach rise and fall with their breath. This will help them think about what happens as they breathe.
  • Sometimes children will try to perform the breathing exercises very quickly. While this is just as fun to do as the breathing techniques described above, there is very little stress management benefit from breathing quickly because the lungs do not fill all the way. One way to get children to slow down is to highlight the contrast to them: “Wow, you were breathing very fast! Now let’s see how slowly we can breathe.”

In my next post I will highlight some stress management techniques that emphasize movement.