Breathing the Magic Bullet

By Karen DeBolt | 30th Mar 2010 | Filed under Parenting, Self Care, Techniques

Self Care:  Breathing the Magic Bullet


Some of you know that I work on a Crisis line on the overnight shift on the weekends. This is a very stressful job and many of my callers are in the midst of various types of crisis situations. Sometimes, I just have to get them calm enough to be able to talk to me about what is happening. How on earth do I get someone calmed down who is crying inconsolably or having a full blown panic attack?

I get them to breath.It sounds simple, but there’s more to it than just taking a deep breath. When you are stressed, the muscles in your body will tighten which can cause shallow breathing. Shallow breathing causes rapid heart beat, sweating, dizziness, etc.  This is a recipe for a panic attack.Probably, not very helpful when you are already stressed out by work, family, or life in general. So How Do I calm that down?Here is a breathing technique that works really well for most people.Four Count Breathing:

  1. Get into a comfortable position–either sitting or laying down is fine.
  2. Put your hand on your belly button.
  3. Breath down into your belly so that your hand moves.
  4. Breath in to the count of four.
  5. Hold your breath to the count of four.
  6. Breath out to the count of four.
  7. Repeat the breathing five or six times
  8. Notice how relaxed your body feels now.

This type of breathing will cause your body to relax–it’s automatic. By relaxing and breathing more deeply your body will feel less tense and your symptoms of stress will begin to decrease as well.You may need to adjust this technique if you are a heavy smoker or if you have any kind of respiratory problem–try breathing to the count of three to start.But I’m not in a crisisYou may not be having a crisis, but that doesn’t mean that you are not under a tremendous amount of stress everyday. So whether you are frustrated at being on hold forever with the cable company, angry at your child for back talking, or feeling pressured by your boss, four count breathing can help to calm your body down so that you can focus your mind better to problem solve whatever the situation.Practice this technique before you go to sleep at night, and you may find that you are able to get to sleep faster and more restfully.Give it a try and let me know how it works for you!

How to Calm A Melt Down



My son is a bit of a drama king at times. He will get extremely frustrated over the seemingly smallest things. He will be happily playing a video game one moment, and then the next he will blow sky high because he was not able to “beat the boss” or something. Often, he will actually have some other need that is causing this small thing to suddenly seem insurmountable, like he is hungry or tired or upset about something else.

Sometimes he is so upset that I am not able to figure out what is going on. After all, not beating a boss is not usually grounds for a major blow–normally its a time for one of his epithets like “Butter Biscuits!”

The trick is to get him calm enough to figure out what is going on. I find that helping him to use a breathing technique like the the Four Count Breathing technique below is very tricky when he is upset already. So, I taught it to him and had him practice it before he goes to bed at night.

This way, when he is upset and could use it, he already knows what to do and just needs a reminder. During a melt down is not a good time for a teaching moment.

 Four Count Breathing Technique

1.    Get into a comfortable position either laying down or sitting.

2.    Ask your child to put his hand on his belly button.

3.    Have your child breath down into his belly until he feels his hand move.

4.    Have him breath in to the count of four.

5.    Hold his breath for the count of four.

6.    Then breath out to the count of four.

7.    Have your child repeat this five or six times. 

8.    Ask your child to notice how relaxed his body feels.

Encourage your child to practice this technique when he is fairly calm at first, then use it when he is just starting to get anxious or upset. Over time, he will be able to do it when he is in the middle of a melt down and may be able to slow down that process enough to calm down. 

The goal is that over time he will be able to calm himself down without any reminders, but know that this may take a whole lot of practice!

 Let me know how your child responds to this type of breathing.

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