This morning I was unbelievably stressed out. For the first time in over two years I stood in front of over 100 people and sang. Yes, I had a couple of moments thinking to myself ‘Why did I decide to do this?‘ I was totally feelings the physical effects of stress in the form of massive butterflies, shaking arms, and dry mouth (not helpful when singing). My child life trained brain kept telling me, ‘You need to accept your feelings and move forward‘ and ‘This is hard and it’s okay if you mess up‘, but that did not make it any easier.
What did help a little bit though was the breathing techniques I use when I work with stressed patients. There are so many different ways to relieve stress through the breath. You can just focus on taking deep breaths or you can breathe deeply in through the nose and out through the mouth. You can take short, shallow breaths and hyperventilate slightly (it’s important to use that trick with caution). You can breathe in and out to a count of 3 or 5 or whatever your choice. You can even breathe in and then try to breathe out every bit of air you can before breathing in again.
Not only that but you can do visualizations with your breath. For example, there is the red cloud trick you might have heard of. You imagine your negative feelings forming a red cloud and then you blow the red cloud away. (Of note, it doesn’t have to be a red cloud, that’s just the way I was taught. It’s totally up to the person using the technique) Or you can pretend your are an animal, for example, a lion, bear, or even dragon, and breathe out like the animal. You can even add your own roar if you want!
Therefore, that is the therapeutic activity that I’m talking about today. Pretending to be an animal and taking deep breaths is a wonderfully simple therapeutic activity that can be done even in the heat of a procedure. As always, it helps to have the patient practice the technique before the anxiety-producing situation happens. That way the patient is able to choose the animal they want and rehearse the technique to become comfortable with it. At the same time, I have had a few times where I encourage a stressed out child in the middle of a blood draw to show me what he or she thinks a dragon sounds like. Sometimes the kids latch on to that suggestion and show off their best roar (deep breath required!). Sometimes they don’t which means on to the next technique!
What I really like about this activity is it requires no tools, just an imagination. It gives control to the child when the child in question decides what animal to be. The child is also focusing on the imagination, instead of just the instructions to “Take a deep breath”. And finally, it is short, sweet, and can be done at the drop of a hat (literally!).
Do you have any deep breathing tricks or tips to share? Leave a comment in the section below! I look forward to hearing from you!
Breathe Like A Dragon Activity Notes