A Young Adult's Guide to Deep Breathing as a Relaxation Technique: A Personalized Fact Sheet
Contributed by Beverly Vicker, CCC-SLP
The following presents an example of a personalized fact sheet. This type of format can be used for a variety of purposes but in this case it was used to summarize the reason, technique, and benefits of learning the relaxation technique called Deep Breathing.
Allison was a 20 year old high school student who was completing her job development program. She was a good worker but under specific circumstances she became highly stressed and vocal. This information sheet was designed to help build her understanding and cooperation with the program. Since the long range objective was self initiation and self monitoring, it was important to use a format that she could access repeatedly but also one in which she eventually would feel independence from adult direction and prompting.
Allison’s Fact Sheet: My Secret Way of Relaxing Myself
I get nervous or tense sometimes when I am at my job. I know that other people get nervous or tense in some situations too. I get nervous when I’m supposed to do something new and when I have too much to do before quitting time.
When I am home and I get nervous, I can go to my room and relax. I might just lay on my bed or play some soothing music on my CD player. Other people might listen to relaxation CDs or their iPod. Some of my friends like CDs that play the sound of the ocean surf or the rain; this helps them to relax.
When I am at work, I can’t lie down or listen to my CD player. I will have to use other ways to calm myself.
If there is a “big” problem at work, I may need to talk to my supervisor or job coach. He or she can help me find ways to solve the problem.
Some problems, however, are “little” problems. I can solve them by myself. I can deal with “little” problems by helping myself to relax. When I am tense, I can’t think well. I think better and feel better when I am calm.
There are many things that people can do to get rid of tension. Many of them cannot be done at work. Many of them would draw attention to me even if I could do them at work.
One strategy for “little” problems is called Deep Breathing. It is a safe and easy thing to do, IF I follow the rules. It also is something that I can do without other people knowing that I am tense and am trying to relax. I want to take responsibility for myself as much as I can because I am an adult. Deep Breathing is an important strategy for me to know.I need to learn about Deep Breathing when I am not nervous or tense. When I can do it easily and correctly many times in practice, then I can try it in a real situation.
Before I begin to practice, I need to know something about me.
- I need to know what it feels like to breathe normally and how deep breathing is different. First, I will want to watch my stomach and my chest to see how much they move away from my body when I do normal breathing. Then I want to watch my stomach and my chest when I am taking in more air or oxygen. I will want to close my eyes and think about how each way of breathing FEELS DIFFERENT.
- I need to know how many times I normally breathe per minute. Most people, when they breathe normally, breathe from 12-20 times per minute. My Mom or someone else can help me time myself. Knowing what is normal for me is very important. When I deep breathe, it should be LESS than my normal rate, If it is not, I’m doing the deep breathing too fast and I may not relax.
These are the things I need to do to practice:
- I need to take in a little more air through my nose than I do with normal breathing. I can use my imagination to help me relax. I can pretend that the breath is coming up to my chest through Swiss Cheese holes in my feet. I can still tell myself to “calm down” while doing the breathing.
- Then I need to hold my breath for about 5 -10 seconds. A respiratory therapist said this step is important.
- I need to let the air SLOWLY escape from between my lips. My lips can be open just a little so no one knows what I am doing. It should take 3-5 seconds to let the air out.
- I need to do this routine several times until I feel more relaxed. I can think of lying on my bed and listening to music to help me remember how being relaxed should feel.
Mom or my job coach can help me decide when I am ready to use Deep Breathing in a real situation. I will need to keep my thoughts focused on feeling relaxed rather than on the problem. That might be hard sometimes.
Deep Breathing won’t help me fix all of my problems. But, it is nice to know a strategy that may help me some of the time. Adults like me need to know many strategies for helping ourselves in a world that is often busy and confusing. I like to feel relaxed as often as I can.
Author’s Note: Frequently an occupational therapist is involved in teaching deep breathing techniques to the student or adult, to educational or adult services staff, and to the family. The basics of the process can be taught to many individuals with ASD. There is no prescribed number of deep breathing inhalations that must occur. The adults doing the training of the student or adult will need to help that individual recognize a state of relaxation and avoid hyperventilation. The latter is caused by breathing too rapidly. Rapid breathing can trigger a seizure in someone who is susceptible to that type of neurological outcome; so, some level of caution is needed during the teaching phase.
Vicker, B. (2009). A young adult’s guide to deep breathing as a relaxation technique: A personalized fact sheet. Bloomington, IN: Indiana Resource Center for Autism.