Breathing Exercises to Support Mental, Emotional, and Social Health

Explore deep breathing with Michelle Presley, a health education expert. Discover how it reduces stress, slows the heart rate, and boosts well-being. Learn the Belly Breathing technique, perfect for high school students. Elevate teaching, enhance lives, and boost resilience.

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Michelle Presley is a California Physical Education Health Projects Health Education Coordinator.


 I’m Michelle Presley. I’m the California Physical Education Health Projects Health Education Coordinator — it’s one of the nine subject matter projects for California. I’m also nationally board certified in health education.

I want to thank you for recognizing that our students today are experiencing very high levels of stress and tuning into this video so that you can support our students’ mental health. All high school students have mental, social, and emotional health that impacts every area of their life, so teaching effective coping mechanisms in any subject matter will benefit our students.

In this video, we will be looking at breathing exercises as an effective evidence-based coping mechanism for stress.

An effective coping mechanism for stress management is to do deep breathing exercises, because they work to calm the nervous system back to rest. Studies show that when taking deep breaths, the heart rate starts to slow, you have more oxygen entering the bloodstream, and it communicates with the brain to relax. Deep breathing also increases that feel-good chemical, our endorphins, it is a practice that enables more air to flow into our body and can help calm our nerves, reducing stress and anxiety.

The big benefit of breathing exercises is that you can do them anywhere, anytime without having to have anything else, just you.

When we are doing breathing exercise, it’s most effective to use the Belly Breathing. So I think this is a perfect place for us to start with our students. I’ll go ahead and demonstrate it first and then you can practice with me.

So we’re going to start by placing one hand on our chest and one hand down low on our belly. So take a big deep breath in, making sure that your lower hand on your belly is expanding and not your chest. Then feel that belly fill with air. It should be getting bigger like a balloon. Now we’re going to blow all the air out slowly and gently through pursed lips. So, kind of, picture as if you were like, blowing bubbles, and when you exhale, the belly, you’re going to feel the belly collapse towards your spine. Okay?

Let’s go ahead and practice so that you’re more comfortable with your students.

Alright, ready?

Start by putting our hands on our chest and our belly. We’re going to inhale, feeling that belly move and get larger. And then we’re going to exhale. You should have felt the belly contract and make sure that you were blowing through pursed lips.

So I would suggest that you practice this with your students at least for a minute or more, but feel free to do it faster or slower depending on your students. Many people will take the time to do the breathing exercise each day, like in the morning to help them prepare for the day. The automatic physical response of deep breathing is what makes it such an effective coping strategy for our students.

If you know an educator who would benefit from this similar content in this video, please check out Supporting Our Students Mental Health for Elementary School or for Middle School.

Thanks so much.

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