Deep breathing doesn't work for every child and I wanted to share some self-soothing techniques I discovered and shared with their mom to try at home.
1. Try an inversion Whether relaxing in a child's pose or touching your toes, inverting the body has a restorative effect on the autonomic nervous system, which controls the body's response to stress. For example, the "Downward Facing Dog" pose. Not only does this pose reset the autonomic nervous system, but this stretch also helps muscles begin to burn additional blood glucose that is made available by the body's fight or flight response. 2. Have a cozy drink Drinking a warm drink on a cool day, makes your body feel warm, almost like a hug from the inside. 3. Blow out a candle
Light a candle for your child to blow out. Then re-light it and move it further and further away from them, so they have to take deeper breaths to blow it out. This is a great way to practice deep breathing while making a game out of it. 4. Paint it out
Painting not only gives the brain something else to focus on other than the stressor but participating in creative activities has been linked to resilience to stress in general. Example - painting with shaving cream on a plastic shower curtain. 5. Jump rope This is great for some indoor exercise during COVID and the cold winter months. Set a timer for 2 minutes, put on some music, and challenge your child to jump to the beat of the song. If the child can't jump rope, playing hopscotch is a great alternative. 6. Jump high Challenge your child to a jumping contest to see who can jump highest, longest, fastest, or slowest. This is a great way to also get in some exercise. 7. Visualize a quiet place
Ask your child to close their eyes and picture a calm, peaceful place. Then guide them to slowly start building up a picture of how it looks, smells, feels to be there. 8. Drink water Dehydration has been linked to a reduction in mental performance. This also has a calming effect on the nervous system. For example, taking 5 slow, big, consecutive sips of water. 9. Sing out loud The act of singling out loud has been shown to release endorphins, the "feel" good chemical in the brain. 10. Blow bubbles This can help your child gain control of their breathing and thus, their mental state. 9. Take a hot bath Great way to unwind from the activities of the day. 13. Count backward from 100 If your child can count to 100, this helps focus on something other than the stressor. It offers a concentration challenge without overwhelming their brain. 15. Breath into your belly Have your child think about their belly like it is a balloon. Tell them to breathe in deep to fill the balloon, and breathe out to deflate it. Repeat this 5 times and notice the effects. 10. Take a cold shower (this might be a hard one, especially in winter) Cold showers have a restorative effect on the body. Not only do cold and even cool showers reduce inflammation in the muscles, but it also improves heart flow back to the heart, and leads to a boost in mood. a few others..... 16. Write it out 17. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude 18. Walk in nature
19. Write a letter in the voice of your BFF 20. Blow on a pinwheel 21. Roll a golf ball under your feet 22. Have a dance party 23. Do a primal yell 24. Change the scenery 25. Repeat a mantra About the author: Katja Engel-Hughes is a graduate student of the clinical mental health counseling program and an intern at Chesapeake Mental Health Collaborative. Photos by: Payton Schreiber-Pan