The teenager had been in my office before, but this time was different. His mother dropped him off at the door, and then was gone. Usually she waited in the car outside. He did not come directly into the room but paced back and forth in the hallway.
I waited for him to slow down a bit and then invited him in. He slunk into the nearest seat, his shoulders hunched over as if warding off a blow. I sat down across the table from him and scattered some colorful magnets onto the surface. I did not say anything, just built a three-dimensional figure with the magnets. Eventually, he felt comfortable enough to join me.
We talked about the problems he was having with school, his part-time employment, and especially his family. The more he talked the more relaxed he became and we were able to address the anxiety he was experiencing. I told him that there was something he could do at home that would help.
I had him lie down on the floor, flat on his back, and bring his knees up to form a tent, or upside down “V” with his feet flat on the floor. I told him to relax his shoulders, and put his hands on his stomach, then breathe in slowly counting to the number five.
His stomach rose with the inhalation, and then when he exhaled, we counted to five again. With each deep breath, his anxiety diminished and his tense muscles relaxed. The more he breathed deeply, the more well-being he felt. After only a few moments, he was ready to go forward and face the day.
We talked about how to use this technique, even if he could not lie down, the key being to breathe slowly, moving the diaphragm down and allowing the stomach area to expand. The vacuum created would bring air into the lungs. Then, as the diaphragm relaxed, the air would be slowly pushed out through the mouth.
This simple action decreases feelings of anxiety by providing the following physical benefits:
- Concentration on the breathing action clears distressing thoughts
- The heartbeat slows down, decreasing pressure on arteries and veins
- The blood moves more slowly, allowing greater nutrient absorption in the muscle tissue
- Nerve impulses decrease, dissipating feelings of stress
- As the body relaxes, the spirit calms.
Not only did this young man feel the benefits of decreased anxiety, he was able to have renewed feelings of self-reliance. He had a tool that he could use at any time to help increase his feelings of well-being.
Give your soul a break today. Breathe deeply, for your emotional health!