It really wasn’t that many years ago when people would ask me, “What problems could elementary age children possibly have that necessitates a full time counselor in an elementary school?” Fast forward to the environment of today, and we are all too familiar with the many mental health issues that children face. As elementary school counselors, it is our mission to equip them with tools to navigate these challenges and foster a sense of calm amidst the chaos.
Here are 3 specific relaxation tactics that can be taught in classroom lessons as well as used in individual or group sessions to help students relieve anxiety and stress.
Strategies for Relaxation
- Mindful Breathing Exercises: Begin classroom lessons with simple mindful breathing exercises. Teach students to focus on their breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly.
- Find a comfortable sitting position with your back straight.
- Close your eyes or gaze softly at a point in front of you.
- Place your hands on your belly.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, feeling your belly rise like a balloon.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth, feeling your belly fall.
- Repeat this process, focusing on the rise and fall of your belly with each breath.
- Count silently to three as you inhale, and count to three as you exhale.
- Continue this mindful breathing for a few minutes, letting go of any thoughts and just focusing on your breath.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Teach students progressive muscle relaxation, guiding them through tensing and relaxing different muscle groups.
- Sit comfortably or lie down.
- Start with your toes; squeeze them tight for a few seconds, then relax.
- Move to your legs; tense the muscles, hold, and then release.
- Continue with your stomach, hands, arms, shoulders, and face – tensing and relaxing each muscle group.
- Take a deep breath in as you tense, and exhale as you release the tension.
- Imagine all the stress and tension leaving your body with each breath.
- Repeat this process, moving through your body, until you feel a sense of relaxation.
- Yoga and Stretching Exercises: Introduce simple yoga poses and stretching exercises to help students release tension and increase body awareness.
- Stand or sit comfortably.
- Inhale as you raise your arms overhead, stretching toward the sky.
- Exhale as you bring your arms down, reaching for your toes or the floor.
- Inhale and come back up to a standing position.
- Reach your arms behind your back, clasping your hands, and open your chest.
- Exhale as you release your hands and twist gently to one side, then the other.
- Inhale deeply, filling your lungs with air, and exhale slowly.
- Continue these simple yoga stretches, coordinating your breath with each movement.
Fostering a sense of calm and relaxation in students is not only beneficial for their immediate well-being but lays the groundwork for lifelong emotional resilience. By incorporating these research-supported relaxation tactics into classroom lessons, we can help create a school environment where stress is met with tools for calm, and each child has the capacity to navigate the challenges they encounter.