Lesson #5: Take a Breather and Calm Down

Activity type: Quiet sitting and Active Role playing
Grade level: 5-8th
Time: 20-30 minutes

Educational objective: Introduce re-centering breathing as a de-stressor. Practice breathing while role-playing stressful situations and notice the effects.

Calming down.

Here’s How:

  1. SHARE: Previous Real World Challenge, re: Apologies.
  2. WRITE: “DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE” on the board.
  3. DISCUSS: Is it possible to forget to breathe? (Not really. But you don’t have to think about it.)
  4. EMPHASIZE: When you consciously choose to pay attention to your breathing, you can help yourself manage stress.
  5. INTRO: Feeling off-balance is stressful. Getting back in balance or re-centering reduces stress. Conscious breathing helps people calm down and de-stress. Remembering to take a re-centering breath can help you stop a stress-response before you lose control.
  6. RE-CENTER. Sit and get comfortable. Put your feet flat on the floor. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs. Relax. Close your eyes. Breathe normally through your nose, but with one difference…pay attention and visualize the air coming in. Then visualize the air going out. BREATHE IN SLOWLY… THEN LET IT OUT SLOWLY. (Continue for 20 seconds)
  7. ASK: What did you notice? (NOTE: Some students may say: things slowed down, felt calmer, more relaxed, etc. Some may say that their thoughts got quieter. Some may say, “Nothing.” It’s all good.)
  8. TRY IT AGAIN. Close your eyes. Relax. This time INHALE SLOWLY and evenly through your nose. Then EXHALE SLOWLY and evenly through your open mouth. When you inhale think “Breathing IN” when you exhale think “Breathing OUT”. Quiet all other thoughts. Follow your breathing. (Continue for 30 seconds)
  9. ASK: What did you notice? What was different?
  10. EMPHASIZE: Learning to focus only on your breathing, not letting other thoughts distract you, can be very challenging. It takes practice. If you can’t focus on your breath for more than a second without thinking of other things, don’t get mad at yourself. (That’ll stress you out!) As soon as you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to your breathing.
  11. TRY IT ONCE MORE, breathing at your own pace. (Continue for 45 seconds)
  12. ASK: What happened that time?
  13. EMPHASIZE: Re-centering breathing is a great way to calm down so you can THINK more clearly and figure out what to do in stressful situations.
  14. Suggested Scenarios for Role Play:  

Scenario 1 (Take 1):

Parent and kid – Kid is relaxing in his/her room, having a really important phone conversation w/ a friend. Parent bursts in and starts yelling “Clean up this mess RIGHT NOW!” (Direction for kid: Yell back.)

ASK: Did our kid just make things more stressed or less stressed?

Scenario 1 (Take 2):

“Parent” comes in and yells the same way, but kid does not yell back. (Direction for kid: Before you respond, STOP and take a re-centering breath. Then THINK about what you can do to de-stress the situation.)

ASK: How did our kid do this time?

First time through the following play up the stress level and respond from there. Then try again with a re-centering breath. Talk about what happens.

Scenario 2:

You wake up and look at your clock. School starts in 10 minutes!!

Scenario 3:

You come home. The door’s locked. No one’s home. You’re hungry. You have to go to the bathroom. And you don’t have your key!

Scenario 4 (2 actors):

You’re taking a test and your best friend pressures you for an answer… quick! You don’t want to help your friend cheat (or get caught) but this is your best friend.

Scenario 5 (4 actors):

You’re at a sleepover and someone suggests calling an unpopular kid at midnight and singing “Happy Birthday”. You know it’s wrong but you feel really uncomfortable about saying so.

Encourage the kids to make up their own scenarios.

  1. REAL WORLD CHALLENGE: The next time you recognize that off-balance feeling, try to remember to STOP and BREATHE. Then THINK about your next best move – one that lowers your stress level and creates more peace and understanding between people.

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