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Children’s Activity: Hand Breathing

Children’s Activity: Hand Breathing

Some days, our stress levels peak, our anxiety heightens and we can feel our hearts race…, how do we help children calm everything down?

Shift the nervous system

When we are stressed, we move into our sympathetic nervous system – this is our fight or flight system. When we are working in our sympathetic nervous system our hormones are telling our body that we are in a dangerous or stressful situation, we might notice:

  • Our heart beating faster
  • Our breathing being more rapid
  • Feeling hot or clammy
  • Feeling we cannot see straight or focus
  • Having headaches
  • Feeling agitated
  • A need to run (because our blood rushes to our limbs and muscles)
  • A need to lash out or fight (because our brain tells our body we are not safe)

When we are in our sympathetic nervous system no amount of telling us to ‘calm down’ will help, but we can learn to regulate our emotions and calm our systems down.

Our focus is to help our brain and body shift into the parasympathetic nervous system – the calm system. When we are in our parasympathetic nervous system:

  • We can breathe easily
  • Our body is calm
  • Our mind is relaxed
  • Our metabolism is activated
  • We feel in control
  • We can relax, unwind and feel peaceful


Hand breathing

Hand breathing is a method that we can use with children, teenagers or adults. Our focus is on controlled breaths which help the body return to the parasympathetic nervous system. To use this technique

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. Encourage children to place their hand in front of them, palm facing them
  3. Spread fingers apart
  4. Place the pointer finger from their other hand at the outside of their thumb
  5. Inhale deeply and trace the from the base of thumb to finger tip
  6. Exhale slowly and trace down to the inside of the thumb
  7. Inhale slowly and trace up the finger
  8. Exhale slowly and trace down the other side of the finger
  9. Repeat for all 5 fingers….
  10. Stretch and wiggle fingers


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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – ARTICLES 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – COURSES 

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit –RESOURCES 


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