Your Teenager is clenching his/her fists and gritting his/her teeth with a heart rate rapidly on the increase as his/her face turns a deep red with rage.
You brace yourself for the explosive onslaught of expletives over a seemingly trivial comment about his/her plans for the day.
Guarded, your mind fills with confusion and absolute frustration at your Teen’s sudden outburst as he/she is once again triggered by a sudden rush of very strong, unpleasant emotions.
Let’s face it, the proverbial, “Just count to 10” is NOT going to work.
Your Teen is in no position at this point to rationally respond to your support, no matter how gentle your guidance might be.
And so what do you do about it besides running for the hills?
The key is to be a proactive parent.
In other words, why wait for that next intense trigger to decide to do something about it?
It’s better to seek solutions and strategies when you’re both calm.
In fact, there are a plethora of vital coping tools that can help minimize your Teen’s next emotional outburst. Of course, having the knowledge of the mechanisms at play when these tools are utilized may help get your Teen on board.
After all, you could just tell your Teen what to do or you could actually explain the science behind it. Furthermore, naming a creditable source such as a well-established neurologist certainly can’t hurt!
Because let’s face it, what does Mom or Dad know?! You’re rather archaic, aren’t you? Not really, but for all-intensive purposes in the perception of your Teenage child, you might as well have lived in the dinosaur age.
And so let’s begin by naming names here. I’m going to refer to the foundational work of neuroscientist, Andrew Huberman of the Huberman Lab at reknown Standford University.
He frequently lectures on the ability to change the brain by first understanding neurological processes and how these relate to the body and to the mind.
Without getting too geeked out, I’m going to focus specifically on “on the spot” tools that can help your Teen in real time, to quickly calm his/her own nervous system when he/she feels particularly agitated.
It does not involve counting to 10, yet it does pinpoint the importance of breathing in addressing a stressful reaction to especially an every day mundane non-threatening event.
Before sharing the specific manner in which your Teen can breathe to shut down this “fight or flight” response (because a sudden uptick in anxiety with a potential panic attack can also result in an aggressive reaction), let’s talk about the 2 types of stress.
The first is what I call “Hyper Alert” Stress where the World seems to be moving just a bit too slowly. This is evidenced in impatience and literally plowing through the day. This can be caused by an immature Pre-frontal Cortex which allows for Top Down Control when it is functioning properly. Injury or disease can also adversely affect the PFC. Furthermore, it has been medically proven that trauma can actually change the chemistry of the brain and hence, impair brain functioning, especially that of the higher rational brain, again known as the Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC).
Over time, this “Hyper Alert” Stress can morph into the second type of stress, what I call “Exhaustion” Stress from being in this heightened alert state much too often. This tends to affect sleep and creates a sense of overwhelm from the extreme fatigue of the ongoing stress. The perception here is that the World is moving too fast. Instead of the “on the move, can’t stop” modus operandi, your Teen becomes immobilized. He/she may have trouble getting started in the morning or getting motivated in general.
Now, depending on the type of stress your Teen is currently experiencing, he/she is going to implement a very specific, yet simple breathing technique to successfully navigate the stress-inducing event.
Once the appropriate breathing sequence is consistently implemented, your Teen will be able to effectively control his/her body’s response and to better manage his/her mood instantly.
Let’s begin with the “Hyper Alert, I’m about to tear the walls down aggressive reaction.
Your Teen can do one of 2 things:
- Your Teen can simply sigh deeply…“The physiological sigh.” or
- Do a quick double inhale with a longer, vigorous exhale.
Why? Ok, here’s where we “geek” out a little bit.
So your Teen understands the mechanism at play, this is why this pattern of breathing works almost instantaneously to calm Your Teen down.
The 2 quick inhales followed by a long, drawn out exhale causes the diaphragm to move up which decreases the actual volume of the heart which in turn causes the heart rate to increase. Because of this, a signal is sent to the brain which says, “Whoa there! Slow down!”. It’s kind of like squeezing your fists even tighter before you release the grip and relax.
Your Teen’s agitation dissipates and he/she feels more relaxed.
But what if you have a Teen who often feels lethargic and unmotivated?
Well, given the mechanisms at play, your Teen would simply do do the opposite,
2 longer, drawn out, vigorous inhales followed by a quick exhale.
Here’s what happens here: The vigorous inhales cause the diaphragm to move down which increases the volume of the heart. This causes the blood to move slower with a subsequent decrease in heart rate. In response, a signal is now sent to the brain to speed up the heart rate. (*The exhale is quick, so that the effect of the inhales are maintained!)
The increased heart rate puts a bit of zip in your Teen’s step and allows him/her to better focus!
The great aspect of these simple breathing techniques is that they provide instant favorable results!
Share these with your Teen today and add to their Happy Toolbox!
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To More Respect, Resilience And A Readiness To Thrive!