Let’s face it; being a teen can be stressful. Whether you’ve just turned thirteen or are about to  graduate from high school, are a homeschooler or a student at one of our local schools, there’s a lot of pressure on you. Your parents don’t understand you, you’ve got a lot going on with school, and everyone (including you, ahem) seems to have an opinion or expectation of you that they want to share with you right this minute. There never seems to be enough time for everything. If you’re like most teens, you probably feel overwhelmed and want to scream at least half the time (and probably do) right?

If you’re cool with that (and who doesn’t like a good scream once in a while) and the way things are, feel free to stop reading here. If you’d like to regain some sense of control in your life, reduce your anxiety and overall level of stress, check this out: all you have to do is learn how to breathe.

Huh?

I know what you’re thinking. You think you already know how to breathe. And, you’re right, you do. Except you’ve forgotten how to do it when you most need it: when you’re anxious, worried, or angry. And all of the moments when you feel like screaming.

Often we don’t notice our feelings until they are in our face and about to combust. It’s just those times when taking a moment to breathe can help. You see, during the evolution of our species our brain relied on these intense feelings to guide us towards safety. (And certainly, in some
situations, this is still important.) However, for most of us, our brain often reacts to stimuli that aren’t life threatening as if they were: an upcoming test, nerves before a performance or game, relationship trouble. There’s nothing wrong with these feelings, of course, unless we allow them to control us and prevent us from taking care of ourselves and others and doing what needs to be done. In these moments, we don’t need our brain to send us signals to worry or be angry. We need our brain to remind us that we are strong, worthy, and
capable. And breathing will help us do this.

Taking slow deep breaths exchanges carbon dioxide for life-sustaining oxygen, slows the heartbeat, and reduces the production of stress hormones, which can result in a more peaceful state of being. And wouldn’t you rather feel relaxed than stressed out all the time?

The next time you feel even just a little bit stressed, or worried, or whatever it happens to be, try this:

• Close your eyes and quietly take three slow and deep breaths.
• Focus on each breath going in and focus on each breath going out.

Try it once more, but this time as you inhale say quietly in your mind breathing in. And as you exhale say breathing out. Do this for three breaths.

There you go! Now you know how to breathe—breathing in and breathing out. The next time you find yourself with a feeling that is all consuming, take a moment to focus on your breathing intentionally. It even works preventatively, so if something often leaves you with a feeling that you do not want to have, you can prepare by focusing on your breathing before these feelings arise.

Breathing in. And breathing out.

Corey Hadden is a Montessori Middle School teacher with the Montessori School of Northampton and an Outward Bound instructor. He has taught kids of all ages (and a few adults here and there) how to breathe. Corey received his training in mindfulness through MindfulSchools.org. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.