As 83% of young people with mental health needs have said that the pandemic has had a negative impact on their mental health, and anxiety is a major issue, our art therapists have compiled some breathing, relaxation, grounding, and mindfulness techniques to help ease and calm. When paired with art therapy techniques and activities, they can help children and young people form positive coping mechanisms for heightened emotional times. 

Grounding Technique  

How it Helps: This technique will use through your five senses to remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations or relax you before starting an activity.  

Guidance: 

First, take a deep belly breath to begin. 

  • 5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, "I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame." 
  • 4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel, and say them out loud. For example, you could say, "I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on." 
  • 3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your tummy rumbling. Say the three things out loud. 
  • 2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you’re allowed to, it’s okay to move to another spot and sniff something. If you can’t smell anything at the moment or you can’t move, name your 2 favourite smells. 
  • 1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favourite thing to taste. 

Take another deep belly breath to end. 


Relaxation Technique

How it Helps: When you’re stressed, your muscles can become tight and tense. This exercise helps you notice tension in your body and relax your muscles. Parents and children can practice this relaxation technique together or on your own. 

Getting Started:  

  • You can use relaxation techniques regularly, or every once in a while, whatever feels right for you. 
  • Try and make some time in your day to do relaxation exercises. Don’t treat relaxing like a task that needs to be completed, rather think of it as giving yourself some time and space. 
  • If possible, find somewhere quiet and comfortable where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Make sure your surroundings are the right temperature – it can be hard to relax if you’re too hot or cold.  

Guidance:

  1. Lie down or sit with your back straight and your feet on the floor. Close your eyes or focus on a spot in the distance. 
  2. Start by clenching your toes as much as you can for a few seconds, then releasing them. Notice the difference between the two feelings. 
  3. Match this to your breathing. Tense your muscle as you take a deep breath in, relax as you breathe out. 
  4. Move up your body to your thighs, your stomach, and all the way to your shoulders and hands, clenching and relaxing each muscle in turn. Take time to notice any parts of your body that feel tense, tight or tired. You can repeat if you still feel tense. 
  5. Take a moment to relax, then slowly and gently begin to move. When ready, stand up slowly. 

Mindfulness in Nature 

How it Helps: Mindfulness is a way of paying attention to the present moment. Spending time outdoors has been found to reduce stress, worry and sadness. Follow these steps for a new way to experience your surroundings and become more aware of yourself and your environment.

Getting Started: All you need is yourself and a green space -  try a local park, woodland, nature reserve or even just your garden. If you're able to walk, this can also be an opportunity get some gentle exercise, but you can do this exercise whatever your mobility.

Guidance: 

  1. Find a green space. When you get there, stop for a moment and take a deep breath. 
  2. Start exploring slowly. Try not to focus on getting somewhere in particular. Really focus on any movement you make. If you're walking, notice which part of your foot touches the ground first, and feel the transfer of weight through your foot. 
  3. Notice the ground underneath you. Is it grass or earth? Does the ground feel soft? What colours can you see? 
  4. Think about the rest of your body. How are you holding your arms? Does the air on your face feel cold or warm? 
  5. Listen to the sounds around you. Can you hear birdsong or wind rustling through the leaves? 

Variations: If you can’t go to a green space, you can try opening your window and noticing what’s around you. Notice any clouds in the sky, or trees and plants you can see. Can you feel rain, wind, or sun on your skin? 


Immediate Calming Tip

Distracting ourselves from things that worry us can reduce negative feelings. Allowing ourselves to focus on something else by picturing a specific image in our head, can help quickly distract from overwhelming feelings and allow us to refocus our emotional state. When feeling extremely anxious, think of an image in your head and think about what it looks like, what it smells like, what you can hear, etc. To calm down quickly, here's a few things to do:

  • Imagine your favourite place
  • Think of your favourite things 
  • Think of what would be your best day ever 
  • Think of the things that make you happiest