When Stress Becomes Overwhelming​

It's almost the end of school and many of my students are showing signs of increased stress because standardized tests, cumulative exams, or final projects are looming. 


I came across this wonderful exercise from Mindful Schools (where I received my training in mindfulness instruction) and wanted to share it with you.


It's called 4,3,2,1. It is perfect for those moments when an emotion is overwhelming and it feels like a challenge to slow down, think, and become calm. This exercise helps students come back into their bodies and reorient their attention to the present moment.


Here's how it works (I've adapted it slightly):


Four: Ask your child to find four blue or green items in their immediate surroundings. When they find each item, they take a couple of deep breaths and then search for the next item. These colors are said to be soothing.


Three: Now they will notice three sounds. A clock ticking, birds singing, cars honking. Take a couple more deep breaths.


Two: Notice two sensations. Maybe their hands feel cold or the seat under them is soft. They can feel their clothing or the floor or ground beneath them.


One: Ask them to put one hand on either their chest or belly to sense their breathing. Do they feel their breath coming out of their nose or mouth? Is their chest or belly moving?


Once they have gone through all the steps, ask them to notice what's happening in their body. Is their heart beating slow or fast? Are they sweaty? Is their breath rapid or slow? If they are still dealing with the emotion, they can go through the steps again until they feel calmer.