This is one of my favourite posts from last summer and I wanted to share it with all of you. Next time you’re sitting in your chair or in the car try to bring some awareness to your breath and see what your pattern of breathe is.
I don’t know about your anxious child but my daughter is terribly frightened to let herself relax. I have worked long and hard at getting her to do the same breathing techniques that I practice and up until now her little nervous system was in too much turmoil to let go. Lying down was even a problem for a while. She would actually fall asleep sitting up.
Have you ever realized just how much we tense up? When you are tired, sick, scared or anxious our bodies natural tendency is to go into the fetal position. This position provides better protection to the brain and vital organs than simply lying spread out on the ground, so it is obvious as to why it is an instinctual reaction to extreme stress or trauma when the brain is no longer able to cope with the surrounding environment, and in essence “shuts down” temporarily.
When our daughter is in the height of her anxiety her instinct is to curl her hands up to her head and curl up as best as she can while standing up. It really is a sight to see her whole body just unable to cope with what is going on around her. I feel the same way too when I am in the midst of my panic attacks. One would think that letting ourselves go to relax and breathe would be a no brainer but that is truly not the case. It takes practice and LOTS of it. I’m not sure how many times we have tried to do breathing together both standing up and lying down and sitting up, while on the cusp of a really good mood or to break her of a potentially emotional moment in typical Sydney fashion when she’s good and ready.
I think we are finally starting to make some progress. I attribute her recent success with relaxation to her seeing our chiropractor. The two have worked hand in hand at letting her nervous system calm down and settle. Of course, there are other factors involved too but I think she is finally beginning to realize just how amazing the power of her own breath is.
The power of your own breath:
- revitalizes all of your body
- calms and soothes your nervous system
- increases your awareness of yourself
- helps your body to heal
to name just a few.
So why am I so excited for my daughter. Well, she has seen me over the course of the last year taking some time to really sit and breath. I generally try and do it when we are together and I let her feel my tummy while I take the breath in and out so she can feel the power of the rise and fall. I usually like to do that when we are in an environment that is safe for her to experiment and my eyes are closed so she doesn’t feel silly or self-conscious if she tries it along with me. About a week ago she was having a particularly trying time going to sleep and I asked her if she could just try and take a deep breath with me but one that I could hear. I put my hand gently on her stomach and lied down beside her. She took in one deep breath and let it out with a big sigh. I asked her if she realized just how high that breath was by the height of my hand rise. She giggled and said, “no..I didn’t move your hand”. Yes, in fact she did move my hand so I encouraged her again to try just one more time and this time try and see how high up my hand rises. So, she indulged me and after letting out a tremendous breath she looked at me and said, “that feels better”. I was doing a dance inside my head. It only took us a few years but we’ve done it. She’s got the first steps of feeling her core rise and fall and “let go”. Anxiety is really much about letting go.
So, again last night she was tense and worries were invading her conscious but you could tell that she so badly needed some good sleep and rest. So I thought why not try the breathing again. I gently put my hand on her soft little belly and I asked her to breath with me and make some noise. With the inhalation her belly went up and she took in a huge deep breath. She made some noise while letting it all go and we actually continued it three more times. In a very soft voice I praised her and asked her how her body felt now. She gazed at me with very sleepy eyes and announced, “good”. That’s all I needed was for her to be aware of her body and the power she has within herself to calm down. I was so proud. Within about two minutes she was sleeping and I studied the tenderness of her face and noticed how different she looked completely calm. So peaceful and serene, my little angel.
Things need to be tried over an over again in many different ways and environments before children will take to them. We all know how difficult it is to entice a child into doing something that they plainly do not want to do but it isn’t about enticing them or bribing them or getting angry with them if they don’t do it. It’s about know that what you are trying to show them with help them and teach them by letting them see you do it too. Leading by example and praise for the little steps along the way. We all have time for some deep breathing and we can all reap the rewards and benefits of it. I am sure that despite her non-physical participation in our relaxation episodes prior to last she was still feeding off the energy that I was putting out and hopefully that in and of it self was somewhat calming for her. Good gracious raising children with special needs is challenging but when they embrace something so simple that will help them for a lifetime it makes it all worth it. They are worth it and they watch us every step of the way whether we realize it or not.
“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.”
Pablo Casals quotes
Originally posted on the Raising Socially Anxious Children Blog on August 2011