Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Controlled Breathing Technique

A simple technique to teach all your children is how to control their breathing. This can be helpful when they become anxious or excited before a sporting event or an academic test, or when they’ve experienced a traumatic event.

When people feel panicked, they may start to breathe hard, hyperventilate, or hold their breath. This tends to cause them to feel more panicked, so it’s important for them to get their breathing under control. It’s not very helpful to tell panicked people to just breathe, however. Instead, you can teach them the following breathing exercise that will help them return to a normal breathing pattern. Try this for yourself, and then teach it to your children.

  • Inhale as you count to four; hold for the count of five; then exhale as you count from six to ten.
  • Next, inhale as you count to four; hold for the count of five; and exhale through puckered lips to ten.
  • Finally, inhale as you count to four: hold for the count of five; and exhale as slowly as possible through puckered lips to ten.
  • Repeat steps one through three for as long as necessary to return to normal breathing.

If you’re doing this exercise with someone who is actively panicking, have the person focus on your face as you talk through the exercise. Counting out loud for him or her also helps.

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