• Breathing Tool

    "I calm myself and check in."

    The video in the link below guides viewers through the breathing tool.  Perhaps because it's so simple, it's the most popular tool for the BMSA community. 

    Breathing Tool Guided Practice

    Here's a snippet from the TOOLBOX by Dovetail Learning about the Breathing Tool:

    Breathing Tool Concept and Hand Gesture from Dovetail Learning

  • Encourage the Breathing Tool at Home

    You Go first:

    No matter who you are, educator, parent, student, sibling, if you enjoy those around you staying calm and want them to do it more often, you must lead the way by using your tools to calm yourself and check in.

    Take a moment right now to curiously notice your breath. Notice if it goes in your nose or your mouth.  Notice how your chest or belly rise and fall.  Now lengthen your spine, put one hand on your heart, and one on your belly.  Slowly breath in through your nose, counting 3, 2, 1.  Then slowly release the air out through your mouth, counting 3, 2, 1.  Repeat 2 more times and curiously notice any changes in your body. 

    When we check in, we may find that we’ve been tensing our muscles, or that we’re holding on to the frustration of an event that happened in the past.  We may notice that we’re worrying about the future instead of enjoying the present moment.  Our breath gives us awareness and space between ourselves and the emotions we feel.  When we take a moment to notice what we are feeling and name it (silently or aloud), it’s like pumping the breaks or turning down the volume on the feeling.

    Explicitly Model using the Tool:

    Continue to model using the breathing tool.  When you have an uncomfortable feeling like anger, worry, frustration, say, “I’m feeling __________.  I’m going to take some deep breaths.”  Or simply close your eyes and make it obvious that you’re taking some deep breaths.  Using the hand gesture while you breath is another nonverbal way of communicating that you are using the tool. (See the hand gesture in the video or above.)

    Practice as a Family:

    It’s always easiest to make a habit of using a tool when we are calm.  Pick a time that your family can practice breathing together.  Here are some ideas of rituals you might incorporate to practice this tool.

    • Take 3 deep breaths before eating dinner.
    • Greet each other in the morning with a hug and a deep breath.
    • Practice deep breathing while waiting at stop lights or before driving in the car.
    • Incorporate deep breathing into bedtime routines. It’s a great way to slow the body down and prepare for sleep.

    To begin the habit, you’ll need to make reminders.  This could be a sticky note that says, “breathe,” a sticker, or an object that reminds you near the place you intend to practice.

    Encourage Family Members:

    When you notice another family member has elevated feelings like upset, worried, even too silly or excited, you can remind them of the tool and invite them to use it by showing them the hand gesture and modeling it for them.  An invitation to use the tool is of more benefit than a command.  We want to train the brain to recognize uncomfortable elevated feelings and respond with deep breathing.  If we command it, we take away the opportunity to build self-regulation.  If a child doesn’t take the invitation, you can wait until you are both calm to talk about that.  You might ask, “What made it difficult for you to use the breathing tool when you were feeling __________?”  Be sure to listen to their answer.  The two of you may come up with a different system that works better for your family.