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December 03, 2021 Friday 10:57:39 AM IST

Take a Deep Breath! Treating Anxiety in Kids

The world of a child is often perceived as carefree and happy. It’s the world of adults that is filled with stress and strain. Is that really so? Could they have possibly something to worry about? Plenty! Even very young children have worries and feel stressed to some degree.

A new study by Stanford researchers is the first to show that taking just a few slow, deep breaths significantly reduces young children’s physiological arousal. By measuring the effects in naturalistic settings such as day camps and playgrounds, the study is also groundbreaking for its design, which more closely reflects a child’s experience than a study in a lab would.  This study is the first to show that taking a few slow, deep breaths in an everyday setting can have a significant effect on a child’s stress physiology, said the study's lead author, Jelena Obradović, an associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) and director of the Stanford Project on Adaptation and Resilience in Kids (SPARK Lab).

The child is asked to breathe as if he/she were inhaling the fragrance of a flower and is asked to breathe out like blowing a candle. Here, the child is scaffolded with a hand on a tool to practice. The Researchers measured two biomarkers in all of their recruits: heart rate and respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), which refers to the changing pace of the heartbeat when a person inhales and exhales. Findings showed that guiding a group of children through one minute of a slow-paced breathing exercise in an everyday setting can, at the moment, significantly lower the average level of physiological arousal.