Family Works: “See” the Power of Slow Breathing

Family Works: “See” the Power of Slow Breathing

Have you heard of “fight or flight mode”? It’s when you’re stressed or frightened and your body poises to fight or flee for its life. Your adrenal glands release hormones that, among other things, cause your heart rate, breathing rate and blood pressure to increase.

Fight/flight mode is handy if you’re literally in danger—for example, if you encounter a growling dog—but sometimes we find ourselves in fight/flight mode through general anxiety or stress, and we stay in it for longer than is good for us. We can’t rest, and it stops us doing other things well. For example, anxious children at school have difficulty learning.

We can help our bodies move out of flight/flight mode simply through slow, deep breathing. Recently our Family Works team adopted an exciting new biometric tool to teach people how to do exactly this. Staff member Megan Waddington describes trying out the tool’s garden game designed for children. The game is meant to show children how much impact their breathing can have and how they can control a situation:

“I clipped a sensor to my ear, which caused my heart rate and other body information to display on a computer screen. It showed whether I was in fight/flight or in its opposite mode, rest/digest. The garden game started with a grey garden scene. After I took two or three belly breaths the garden started to change—grass became green, a stream filled with blue water, flowers grew and animals appeared. Music began playing. I kept slow breathing until a rainbow appeared to signal the game was finished.”

Megan wasn’t anxious before her test, but another staff member who tried the biometric tool, who was quite stressed beforehand, noticed a significant change in her body.