Want all the benefits of deep breathing this holiday season? This Christmas Wreath deep breathing exercise is a free printable that you can grab and start using for mindfulness or coping during the hectic holiday season!
Christmas Wreath Deep Breathing Exercise
Who could use a moment of relaxation breathing in the way of deep breathing right about now? The better question is, who couldn’t?
As if life is not stressful enough, the holidays are coming up! While this is a joyous time for most, it can also be stressful. Given all of the changes in schedules, building excitement, increased chores and errands, money woes, and the unpredictability that comes with new events can often push an already overwhelmed person over their limit.
For our kids who become overwhelmed by new situations, different sensory input, or changes to routines, this time of year can wreak havoc on coping tools that may be in place.
The Neuroscience of Deep Breathing
When the body responds to stress it sends out signals to fight, flight or freeze. Your body either responds by “flight”: running away/avoiding the task at hand, “fight”: becoming aggressive/combative as a way to avoid the trigger, or “freeze”: suddenly becoming unable to move/think/act.
This is generated in the brain stem, or the hippocampus to be more specific. Did you know a brain stem response is automatic and usually out of our realm of control? A student refusing to complete an activity or walk down the hallway may not be able to control their responses until they can calm their central nervous system. A nervous system in flight, fight, or freeze is not efficient or effective.
Under stress or an imminent/imagined threat, the body responds with increased breathing, elevated heart rate, difficulty making decisions, memory loss, sweating, increased blood pressure, strong emotions, and about a dozen other autonomic (automatic) responses.
For more information about psychological stress and the autonomic nervous system, check out this resource.
The good news? You CAN fight the hippocampus monster to take back control of your body!
Calming Strategies to Reset the Body
One helpful strategy is, using deep breathing exercises. There are numerous other strategies, such as:
- Deep pressure
- Calming activities
- Listening to music
- Taking a walk
- Drinking a hot or cold beverage
- Eating a delicious snack
- And of course, Deep breathing!
Deep breathing and these coping strategies are quick and effective ways to begin the process of calming down.
The OT Toolbox has several resources available to help understand and provide meaningful sensory strategies:
- Sensory Strategies for School
- Coping Strategies for Kids
- How to Help Kids Cope with Anxiety
- Breathing Exercises for Kids
Christmas Wreath Deep Breathing Exercise
The OT toolbox has combined deep breathing exercises with a holiday theme, to easily incorporate into lesson plans. A themed lesson plan can add external motivation if planned and executed correctly. Themed exercises, while super exciting and motivating, need to be proportional to the rest of the day, so as not to increase the arousal level further.
These pages can be printed as they are, laminated for durability, or put into plastic protector sheets. Lamination and plastic protectors not only add to the durability of paperwork, but they can be easily sanitized to cut down on germ transfer, which is especially high during winter months. Printed pages, instead of laminated, can be helpful if you have multiple students who need this type of assistance at the same time.
When creating a sensory diet for your student, these worksheets or cards can be included as part of the plan. Making a binder of strategies, or mini cards on a keyring to teach your student to select the appropriate activity, is an excellent way to teach independence and self regulation.
To use these sheets:
- have the student touch their finger onto one of the white dots.
- Instruct them to breathe in.
- Guide them to trace to the end of the arrow and breathe out.
- Repeat around the diagram as many times as needed for improved calming.
For non holiday themed deep breathing exercises, try these deep breathing exercise cards. These deep breathing exercise cards include 113 different deep breathing exercises that can be printed and used in therapy, home programs, the classroom or whatever setting you find the student in need of self regulation.
Check out this other Christmas themed deep breathing exercise printables!
- Snowman Deep Breathing Exercise
- Gingerbread Man Deep Breathing
- Christmas Tree Mindfulness Exercise
- Deep Breathing Star Coloring Page
Take a moment to help your student breathe deep, put everything in perspective, talk it over, and start again. Look for precipitating factors in the environment that may have triggered this stress response and make an effort to modify or change this if possible. These triggers might be sounds, sights, smells, touch, or movement based.
Free Christmas Wreath Deep Breathing Exercise
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Victoria Wood, OTR/L has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.
Of course if that does not work, you could always offer chocolate, that helps everything!
*The term “student” is used for ease in this article. These activities are meant for a multitude of audiences. “They” is used in lieu of he/she for inclusivity.