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Relaxation and breathing techniques

This resource may help you when you are starting to feel a bit worried and scared.

Relax like a cat

If you have ever watched a cat sleeping, you will know that they sleep like they have no care in the world. Imagine you are a cat and you are going about your day in a calm and relaxed way. The sun is about to rise so you are still asleep.

  • Close your eyes and pretend you are still asleep and are breathing deeply having a nice dream
  • Take a long breathe in through your nose
  • And a long breathe out through your mouth
  • Take a long breathe in through your nose
  • And again out through your mouth.

Carry on breathing in this way for a few more moments, breathing in slowly and breathing out slowly. With each breath you will begin to feel more relaxed like a cat.

  • Place one of your hands on your belly and another on your chest. As you take a long breathe in, pay attention to your hands moving.
  • Keeping your hands on your belly and chest, take a long breathe out still paying attention to your hands. Try and make sure the hand on your belly is moving as well as the one on your chest.
  • Continue this breathing for a few moments and stop when you feel relaxed like a cat.

Paint it out

Pick a colour from the colour that shows you are worried, upset or angry.

Now pick a colour that you think shows being calm and happy.

  • Close your eyes and imagine the colour that shows you are worried, upset, angry all over your body
  • Now pick up the colour that shows happiness and being calm. Imagine this new happy and calming colour is in a paint pot
  • Dip your pain brush into the pot of your calming happy colour. Paint all over the scary and nasty feelings
  • Now take a few deep breaths to help you feel more relaxed

Use your senses

This relaxation exercise looks at using your 5 senses. These are touch, see, taste, smell and hear.

Lie down or sit in a comfy chair. Try and relax your body and not pay attention to your worry.

  1. Look at what is around you and name 5 things you can see
  2. Feel what is around you. Touch 4 things and say out loud what they feel like. Is it soft? Is it scratchy?
  3. Listen to what is happening around you. Name 3 things you can hear right now. Is there a car going by? Is the radio on?
  4. Take a deep breath and smell what is around you. Name 2 different things you can smell. Is it your shampoo?
  5. Now try and focus on 1 thing you can taste. Can you still taste something from lunch?

This is a great relaxation technique to try at different times of the day. It can be really good at distracting us from all our worries. Try it when someone is cooking dinner or making a hot drink.

Muscle relaxation

When we feel worried, upset or nervous it is normal for all of our muscles to tense up. This exercise teaches you how to relax different parts of your body.

Hands and arms

Pretend you have a lemon in each hand. Try to squeeze all the juice out, as hard as you can. Feel your hands and arms getting tighter. Hold this squeeze for 10 seconds. Now, relax and let the lemon drop out of your hand. Pay attention to the difference in your hands and arms.

Arms and shoulders

Pretend you are a cat that just woke up from a nap. Stretch your arms forwards in front of you then raise them high above your head. Feel the pull in your shoulders. Stretch high and touch the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds. Now, relax and let them drop quickly and feel how nice it is to be relaxed.

Shoulders and neck

Pretend you are a turtle. Try and pull your head into your shell. Try to pull your shoulders up to your ears and push your head down into your shoulders. Hold tight for 10 seconds. Now, come out of your shell and relax those shoulders.


Pretend you are squeezing a watermelon in between your shoulder blades. Hang your arms by your side and pull your shoulders together. Hold tight for 10 seconds. Now release and let the watermelon drop to the floor.


Pretend to squeeze through the fence. Now pretend you want to squeeze through a narrow fence. Suck your stomach in, try to squeeze it against your back bone. Get it real small and tight, hold for 10 seconds. Okay, you made it. You got through the fence. Settle back and let your stomach blow out.


Pretend you are trying to bite a giant carrot. It is hard to chew so bite down on it as hard as you can. Hold the bite for 10 seconds. Good, now relax. You have bitten through the carrot. Let your jaw go all loose.

Face and nose

Pretend a fly has landed on your nose, try and get it off without using your hands. Wrinkle up your nose and make as many wrinkles as you can. Scrunch it up really hard and hold it as tight as you can. Notice how your cheeks, mouth and forehead move too. Hold it for 10 seconds.  Now relax your face and let it go smooth again.

Legs and feet

Pretend you are standing barefoot in a big mud puddle. Squish your toes deep into the mud. Try to get them right to the bottom. You will probably need your legs to help push. Hold for 10 seconds. Okay, time to come back out. Relax your feet and legs.

Further resources

Feeling Good app uses audio tracks to help relax your body and mind and build confidence.

Catch It app help you to learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently.

Chill Panda app uses breathing techniques to help you relax more, worry less and feel better.

Headspace app is a relaxation and mindfulness app.

Hospichill app helps you get ready to go to hospital.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the paediatric psychology department on 0114 271 7296.  

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: PSY15

Resource Type: Article

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