Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Controlled Breathing: The 90 Second Rule

By: DR MARY O'KANE

Tuesday 09 April 2019

Childhood Anxiety, Controlled Breathing and the ‘Ninety Second Rule’

Child mental health is a growing concern for parents and educators in Ireland. Research shows increasing numbers of our children are experiencing mental health challenges. By the age of thirteen, one in three are experiencing some form of difficulty (Kelleher et al, 2012). To put this in perspective, for any family with three children it is likely that one will present with mental health issues before they are a teenager, with anxiety being one of the most prevalent issues reported (Cannon et al, 2013).

Practices at ECCE level have the potential to both support children in difficulty and prevent issues from developing as early as possible in children’s lives. We know that we develop our emotional capabilities throughout childhood, so let’s look at one research informed way preschool practitioners can support children to cope when they are feeling stressed, worried, or anxious.

Firstly, it is important that educators understand what is happening inside a child’s body when they experience anxiety.

Anxiety is our internal alarm system and is designed to help us survive danger. The amygdala is the area of the brain linked to fear responses and responsible for detecting danger. It receives information from our senses and prepares us to fight or flight, responding to any perceived threat. When this happens, we experience a series of hormonal changes and physiological responses. This causes breathing to become shallow, the heart rate to increase, and the digestive system to shut down as the body gets ready to respond to threat. However, the amygdala cannot tell the difference between real and perceived threat, which means that for some children these responses become overactive, and they can spend a lot of time trapped in this fight or flight state.

As educators we are aware that the prefrontal cortex, at the front of the brain, is needed for higher level thinking. It is responsible for self-regulation, it helps us to work things out, bringing control and order. When we are stressed or anxious, the amygdala stops information reaching the prefrontal cortex. So, when children are stressed or anxious they shift from social or learning brain to survival brain, which makes it harder for them to think clearly, respond calmly, and communicate (Shanker, 2016).

However, we can support our children by teaching them techniques to counter this stress response. The 90 Second Rule is a term coined by Dr Jill Bolte Taylor in her book ‘My Stroke of Insight’ (Bolte Taylor, 2006) to explain the lifespan of negative emotions. She advises that when we react to something in our environment, this sets off a 90 second chemical process during which we cannot control these reactions. However, following this 90 second period these chemicals are flushed out of our bodies. This is very important when we consider the role of the amygdala and our children’s anxiety, as after that 90 second delay, we are in a position to influence how we respond to the fight or flight instinct. If our children practice controlled breathing, these deep, controlled breaths can slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure, and calm the fight or flight response set off by the amygdala.

‘Breathing Buddies’ are a very effective way for young children to practice controlled breathing. Children lie comfortably and place their breathing buddy (a little stuffed toy) on their stomach, they then focus on the breathing buddy moving up and down as they slowly inhale and exhale. This type of ‘belly breathing’ helps to calm the fight or flight response set off by the amygdala. Inhale for a count of three, hold for a count of three, exhale for a count of three, wait for a count of three, and repeat the process. This is a very effective technique that ECCE practitioners can use to help children send messages back to the amygdala that all is well.

Although there is no magic wand to wave away our children’s anxiety, awareness of the 90 Second Rule and controlled breathing is very important in terms of our ability to respond to stress. The provision of simple interventions such as controlled breathing exercises have the capacity to shape the emotional well-being of our children, helping them to deal with emotional struggles, and in doing so, improve their educational chances.


References:

Bolte Taylor J (2006) My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York: Penguin Press.

Cannon M, Coughlan H, Clarke M, Harley M & Kelleher I (2013) The Mental Health of Young People in Ireland: a report of the Psychiatric Epidemiology Research across the Lifespan (PERL) Group Dublin: Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Kelleher I, Connor D, Clarke M, Devlin, N, Harley M & Cannon M. (2012). Prevalence of psychotic symptoms in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis of population-based studies. Psychological Medicine, 9, 1-7.

Shanker, S (2016). Self-Reg: How to Help Your Child (And You) Break the Stress Cycle and Successfully Engage with Life. Canada: Viking.

 

Bio:
Dr Mary O'Kane is a Lecturer in Psychology and Early Childhood Studies with the Open University. Her research interests include childhood transitions; self esteem and well-being, and the value of play. She runs a monthly parenting slot on Ireland AM discussing a broad range of parenting and childhood issues, and is a regular contributor to the Alison Curtis Show on Today FM. She gives public talks on a range of topics related to child well-being, parenting, and education, details of which can be found on her Facebook Page: Dr Mary O’Kane Early Years.

0 comments Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

baby room(1) Sustainable(1) Time Out(1) Painting(1) Patterns(1) Inspections(1) Buddies(1) Glitter(2) Cork(1) blog(41) Valentine's Day(3) Relaxation(1) Book Club(2) Xbox(1) Universal Design(2) Gardening(1) Home Corner(1) Routines(2) emotions(2) christmas(9) Wesco(1) National Pyjama Day(1) reading(5) Research Conference 2019(1) Maynooth(1) toddlers(3) Iraq(1) Graduate(1) Family wall(1) Wilenski(1) Care routines(1) HR(1) Reggio(1) pablo(1) Childcare(3) Brain(1) Environment(2) outdoor play(6) linc(1) Budget 2018(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Twitter(1) mushrooms(1) Human Resources(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Aistear(123) Learning Journal(2) Music(3) food(1) Research Seminar(1) Children's Rights(3) planning(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) stories(3) Imagination(3) Inter-generational(2) peer group(1) listening(1) Mud kitchens(1) UD(1) Workplace Relations(3) ears(1) value(1) play pods(2) Learning Stories(9) babies(7) Leaders in Practice(1) Budget 2020(1) preschool settings(1) Family(1) Sustainability(3) Workforce(1) Self-Esteem(1) Playdough(1) Magnavacchi(1) Titles(1) Equality(1) trust(4) Exploring and Thinking(1) Celebrate(1) School Age Childcare(1) Trigonometry(1) structure(1) Easter(1) Learning Stories Award(3) Tuscan Approach(2) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) Treasure(1) Flowers(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Vietnam(1) research(6) Academic Skills(1) outdoor environment(1) play therapy(1) Winter(1) Breathing(2) Death(2) Performance Management(1) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Meet the Members(1) curriculum(5) Reggio Emilia(1) bloom app(1) Mount Everest(1) Advocacy(1) Funding(1) Penguins(1) Creative(1) Administrative Burden(1) june29(1) friendships(1) purpose(1) community(5) Reopening Childcare(1) relationships(17) Mindfulness(2) memories(1) Magda Gerber(1) Síolta QAP(1) Autism(4) Ariana Pucci(1) Children's Voice(1) Confidence(1) collaboration(1) parents(6) Photographs(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) San Miniato(4) early life(1) Pre-School Services(1) Event Guide(1) Self Help Skills(1) eating(1) Eritrea(1) AsIAm(2) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Annual Conference 2017(2) AIM(2) grandchild(1) Art(6) Positivity(1) Thanks(1) Love(3) Well-Being(10) Early Learning and Care(1) Emergent Curriculum(1) phone apps(1) Children and families(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) continual professional development(1) refugees(1) Feeding(1) learning bias(1) children’s learning(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) Nuturing interactions(1) Masterclass(2) Competent(1) conference(1) Arithmetic(1) childcare services(1) Inspirational(2) Exploring(1) Leadership(1) Care-giving routines(1) Whole Group(1) Technology(3) Opportunities(1) Queues(1) dogs(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) Weather(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) Upcycling(1) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Irish guidelines(1) supportive environments(2) Anthony Semann(1) Maths(5) environments(1) documentation(4) Touch(1) developing motor skills(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Exploratory Play(1) mental health problems(1) Educators(2) Inclusion(3) Recycling(2) Wrapping paper(1) Kids Own(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) Mark Twain(1) Awards Night(1) Kilkenny(1) Favouritism(1) show and tell(1) Frosty the Snowman(1) Workplace well-being(1) CPD(1) Snakes(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Obesity(1) Investment(2) Online(1) Gratitude(1) Training(2) Teamwork(1) Large Doll Play(1) Settling in(4) Together Old and Young Programme(1) INTO(1) early childhood(1) TOY Programme(1) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Engineering Ireland(1) Meal time(1) family time(1) Orla Kenny(1) Snack Time(1) Games(1) social science(1) play pod(1) dining(1) code of ethics(1) Policy(2) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Intention(1) Jenga(1) Mantra(1) Digital(1) Light table(1) Identity(5) COVID-19 crisis(1) Sequins(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Sessional service(1) educarer(1) meals(3) keezy(1) Fabric(1) Ceremony(1) UN(1) Yoga(1) Academics(1) Appreciation(1) Blocks(1) UNCRC(2) healthy eating policies(1) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) Interests(1) Montessori(3) Horizon 2020(1) scéalta(45) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Children's Research Network(1) Learning Story(1) Early Years(1) Adoption(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Pobal sector profile(1) life long learning(1) Potential(1) education system(1) story time(2) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) responsive relationships(1) Interactions(2) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Loving Relationships(1) budget(1) Facebook(1) Storytelling(6) Maria Montessori(1) Oireachtas(1) New Appointments(1) TRAP(1) World Health Organisation(1) Engagement(1) Through the looking glass(1) maternity health(1) Awards(2) books(4) Covid pandemic(1) Smiles(1) transitions(10) gender stereotype(1) NCCA(3) E.coli(1) Communicating(1) interacting(2) Performing(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Arlene Forster(1) IGL(1) youdoodle(1) Child mental health(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Qualifications(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Playschool(1) Fee Play(1) Builders(1) Self-regulation(1) child-centric(1) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Exercise(1) EM Standing(1) risky play(2) ECEC Setting(2) Learning journals(1) Early Childhood Ireland(4) PIP(1) Capable(1) Engineers Week(2) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) College(1) RTE Investigates(1) curiosity(3) Magic(1) EECERA 2016(1) Affordability(1) early years learning(1) under 3's(3) Iceland(1) Mathematicians(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) The Lullaby Book(1) dublin(2) outdoor space(3) Prexit(1) ECCE(7) Craft(1) Cognitive development(1) worries(1) Building Resilience(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) DES Inspection(1) Halloween(2) Malaguzzi(1) Educator of the Year Award(3) Seas Suas(1) animals(2) Little Buddies(1) Syria(1) keep in touch(1) Frustrations(1) Map(1) Exclusion(1) First 5 strategy(1) Budget 2019(2) GoToMeeting app(1) Challenges(1) Infection Control(1) Certificate(1) social media(1) Siolta blog(8) Aldo Fortunati(4) imotion(1) primary education(1) annual conference(1) Vertical grouping(1) Covid response(1) Time(1) Recycle(1) aistear blog(3) Scéalta Blog(99) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Japan(1) role playing(1) Body Language(1) Story(1) Trade union(1) Margy Whalley(1) Sweets(1) journey(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) Staff Motivation(1) Degree(1) Santa(2) reopening(1) Inspired Practice Award(5) Limerick(1) Running(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) risk assessment(1) Belonging(3) University(1) InspireMe.ie(1) play(35) Laugh(1) Awards 2018(3) Motor neuron disease(1) Trick or treat(1) dining experiences(1) Plants(1) Rich Documentation(1) awards 2020(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) Sleep(1) Stress(2) behavioural science(1) Sport(1) Italy(1) iOS(1) staying connected(1) coronavirus(1) Consent(1) Creativity(5) routine(2) Super Shed Stories(2) Primary School(2) creche(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) overhear(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Childhood(1) Traffic Lights(1) European Project(1) Plastic(1) outdoors(4) respect(5) Summer(1) Study Trip(1) SAC(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Lego(2) Síolta(125) Employee(1) Grief(1) child-centred approach(1) code of professional responsibility(1) Nutrition(1) listen(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Dance(1) Support(1) ReCreate(2) Shoes(1) Maynooth University(2) Social Skills(1) Youtube Series(1) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) Interaction(1) Albert Einstein(1) Culture(2) Identity and Belonging(4) Bereavement(2) Mayo(1) SPICE Framework(1) Reading Time(1) man up(1) bonds(1) Buddy Bench(1) Sculptures(1) Kerry(1) children development(1) Scents(1) pets(1) Celebrations(4) Trade Unions(1) experience(1) Mixed age groups(3) Afghanistan(1) science week(2) Pedagogical leaders(1) reopening ireland(1) movement behaviours(1) ICBN(1) Pretend Play(1) science(3) Hand Hygiene(2) Visitors(1) emotional environment(2) MA(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) National Awards 2019(1) Visual Impairment(1) Empathy(1) Maternity Leave(1) learners(1) Window(1) Confident(1) Diversity(1) Spiders(1) NAEYC(1) Sociodramatic play(1) Anxiety(2) risk(2) racism(1) preschool(4) Design(1) Community involvement(1) ECEC(3) Wendy Lee(3) conversations(1) ERASMUS+(3) Biting(1) RIE philosphy(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) education(2) Thank you(1) Change(1) Laughter(1) educating(1) Digital Devices(1) National Awards 2018(2) Maths Week(1) Participation(2) Independence(1) research submissions(1) emotional well-being(1) Professionalisation(5) Decision Making(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Engineering(3) communication(4) Rituals(1) Your place(1) Pedagogy(2) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) Impact(1) Early Years Educators(3) Mo Scéal(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) gender bias(1) Norway(2) learning(19) Supernanny(1) Mental Health(4) Drawing(2) Leprechauns(1) St. Patrick's Day(1) Traditions(2) COVID-19(10) early childhood educator(2) apps for children(1) Inter-generational learning(2) Children(4) Small World Play(1) First 5(1) feisty(1) Document Learning(1) art of the relationship(1) Health(2) Thinking(1) Child Care(1) Communications(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Role play(1) development(8) Loss(1) Party(1) Irish(1) Graduation(1) early years research(2) Decisions(1) DCYA(6) Mealtimes(1) Liz Kerrins(1) Awards 2019(1) Pobal(1) Snacks(1) lockdown(1) Our Little Seed(1) Behaviour(3) Book Review(1) Socioemotional development(1) Leargas(1) MECPI(1) CCTV(1) play stories(2) National Holiday(1) Infectious diseases(1) Line-ups(1) Names(1) Shapes(1) Giraffe(2) Quality(4) Reflective Practice(1) Nonverbal(1) CIT(1) The Jelly King(1) Pen green(1) Covid19 crisis(1) GDPR(1) Arts(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) STEM(3) ELC(1) Wonder(1) United Nations(1) Elders(1) Fantasy play(1) Treasure Chest(1) Exit interview(1)

SIGN UP FOR BLOG UPDATES

SUBSCRIBE
Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine