Teaching middle school isn’t for everyone, but the people who teach this age group love their jobs.

The awkwardness.

The rollercoaster of emotions from out of control hormones.

The dramatization and amplification of each moment in life.

Work is never boring. Teaching for the past five years, I have witnessed a lot of joy, but also many tears associated with navigating the social hallways of adolescents.

Sometimes I stumble upon students who are visibly distraught with heavy, uneven sobs that make it impossible for them to communicate. The first step I take to break someone out of a panic pattern is getting them to steady their breathing. There is an unfortunate cycle that occurs when people have anxiety: anxiety negatively affects breathing → feeling like you can’t breath makes anxiety increase →anxiety negatively affects breathing, and so on.

When I experience anxiety, my breathing changes drastically, but in a more subtle manner than someone who is hyperventilating. I take short breaths with long pauses in-between inhaling and exhaling.


Finally, someone (Cory) taught me “how to breath” and it became a crucial tool in de-escalating my anxiety. Here is a breakdown of the breathing exercise he taught me (and here is a link for more information):

  • Sit up tall, lower back against your chair with your shoulder blades relaxed. Lift your mid/upper back off the chair towards your desk a couple inches.
  • Take a slow and deep belly breath in for about 3 seconds, hold for 1 second, and release slowly for 6–8 seconds. It’s best to stare at a second hand or timer when you first start, as the timing is very important.
  • Repeat this breathing pattern for 3 to 5 minutes and when you are done, get up (slowly) and take a walk around the room.

The hardest thing for me to learn was how to belly breathe, and I needed a lot of instruction on how to do this. If I’m not thinking about it, I tend to breathe using only my chest, instead of using my diaphragm muscle. This causes my neck and shoulders to stiffen up, therefore I feel tense, continuing the panic pattern.

To break the patternsomething has to change.

In order for me to get out of this cycle:

  • I need to identify that my breathing is erratic.
  • The next step is to consciously change the way I’m breathing to eliminate this symptom.

It takes practice, but whether you are a thirteen year old student or a middle school teacher, everyone can learn to breathe.

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