How breathing and stress are related

When we are calm and relaxed our heart rate is normal and our breaths are relatively long and slow, this tends to be most people’s most consistent state, this is how our breathing is when we are reading a book and sleeping. Breathing is what makes our lungs absorb oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide, longer and slower breaths allow this to take place efficiently. However, when we are faced with stressful situations our heart rate increases, our breaths get shorter and more shallow and we become at risk of hyperventilating, this makes the exchange of the gases in the lungs less effective and can prolong feelings of anxiety. If you can teach your child how to practise deep breathing, it can help when they feel anxious, bring their heart rate back down to normal and helps them sustain focus when learning.

When breathing exercises are especially helpful for your child

  • Before exams – this will help calm their nerves
  • Before beginning to study – this will allow them to focus
  • When they are tired – this can help refresh their mind
  • After physical activities – this will help them calm down and get their heart rate back down

Some breathing techniques:

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise

This is also known as the Relaxing Breathing exercise; this exercise aims to put the person in deep relaxation so is not best for if your child needs to remain alert

  • Sit down somewhere comfortably, if you are doing it before bed then you should be lying down.
  • Rest the tip of your tongue at the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth
  • Part your lips and exhale completely through the mouth
  • Close your lips and inhale through your nose whilst you count to 4 in your head
  • Next, hold your breath for 7 seconds
  • Lastly exhale again for 8 seconds
  • Repeat this for a few cycles

Stimulating Breath

Dr Andrew Weil recommends this technique for those who want to increase alertness and feel energised.

  • Inhale and exhale rapidly through the nose, keep your mouth closed – the inhaling and exhaling should be for an equal amount of time but both should be short
  • This makes the diaphragm move quickly
  • Dr Weil recommends that you do not do more than 15 seconds on the first try

Focus Breathing Technique

This works best before an exam or a stressful event. This will help you calm your nerves and anxiety.

  • Close your eyes and take a few big and deep breaths
  • When you breathe in envision something that makes you feel calm and at peace
  • Breathe out and imagine the stress leaving you with the air

This is sponsored post by Performance Learning, pioneering behaviour change in schools.