Holly Swinton: dyslexia speaker, trainer, author and assessor » News » 8 great brain breaks that create calm

8 great brain breaks that create calm

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I love reading new research that confirms the therapeutic effect of certain physiological practices from around the world.  But during emergency homeschooling what we need as parents is easy stuff we can try today as you see your child starting to fizz!

Without taking a deep dive into the poly-vagal theory and the parasympathetic nervous system, here are some simple things that often work for me, my kids and other kids I teach.

Some of these are even subtle and quick enough they can practise them at home and eventually be able to do them in an exam (or in the loo at school) to reset themselves.

  1. Massage their ear – There are some amazing acupressure points on the ear (e.g. Shen Men, Point Zero and Sympathetic Autonomic Point). This known as auriculotherapy (or-ic-you-low-therapy). Using a firm pressure, massage (up and down or in a circular motion) the pressure points. The lower lobe and rook (the ridge bit) can also help with stress and anxiety. You probably know someone that has a Daith piercing to relieve headaches or migraines.
  2. Laugh – open-throated laughter is best (real or forced).  See, they told you that watching those funny videos were vital!  Try also humming, gargling and singing.
  3. Legs up the wall – Viparita Karanione (vip-par-ee-tah car-AHN-ee) is one of the best restorative yoga poses. It means inverted action.  You will see smart kids naturally inverting themselves off chairs/sofas/playground equipment.  Start with a supported version. They might be ok to cover their eyes for even deeper relaxation.
  4. Belly Breathing – everyone will tell you to do this slightly differently, but the experts seems to agree that you have to breathe in through your nose and that your belly should go out as it fills with air.  Some people imagine breathing in and out different colours, very slowly.  On a stressful day I try to do this for one minute once an hour.  I love organic essential oils and tend to breathe these in (spritzing a blend or popping it on my pulse points or on a pencil case or pillow). 
  5. Power Poses – Amy Cuddy started a craze in 2012 with her wildly successful Ted Talk which has had millions of views.  She has changed her argument a little bit since and doesn’t necessarily claim a change in body chemistry, but says 55 studies clearly demonstrate a link between expansive postures and feelings of power.
  6. Tapping – modern psychology has adapted ancient chinese acupressure to give people a simple outlet for negative feelings. EFT Tapping gets you to name your unwanted feeling and tap on specific points to release that energy. Does your child need to do it themselves?  Possibly not.  Even just you tapping can help your child to release their own negative feelings, particularly since they will probably be staring at you in fixated horror.
  7. Mindfulness – we would never dream of running our computers like we run our brains, but nowadays most kids never switch off.  There are great apps to help, little mindful exercises and quick and free guided meditations on youtube.  I like the grounding exercise 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (where you notice 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  8. Brain Gym – this programme crams in a lot of great cross-body exercises (cross crawl, lazy eights, touching opposite ankles front and back). Also, try hookups, brain buttons or energy yawn. But be careful about googling ‘hookup videos’!!!

Why not try one of these today and see how they feel?

If I am testing or tutoring a kid with dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, ASD, sensory needs or ADHD who likes data then I’d recommend a pulse oximeter (£10-20).  This clips on their finger and tells them their heart rate and percentage of their red blood cells carrying oxygen.  Some experts also recommend them at the mo for home monitoring of covid symptoms.