Pressure to make the grade, make the team, and not make embarrassing mistakes has long stressed students out. In Colorado, all that anxiety is contributing to a crisis: The state’s teen suicide rate jumped by 58 percent between 2016 and 2019, and a report from the attorney general points to fears about academic failings as a key risk factor. It’s that kind of anxiety Tessa Zimmerman of Asset Education aims to ease. The four-year-old Denver company creates stress management curricula for the classroom, and research suggests the nearly 20,000 learners Asset reaches see benefits—in a 2018 Denver Public Schools study of two different classrooms, 60 percent of students reported feeling less frazzled after practicing Asset’s techniques for a year. With the pandemic inducing even more tension than usual, we asked Zimmerman to share three exercises to calm your kids (and yourself).

Body Scan

Close your eyes (or look at the floor), breathe deeply, and bring your attention to your feet. Wiggle your toes. Notice how your socks feel. If you have uncomfortable sensations in your feet, visualize that tension dissipating. Move on when you’re ready. Work up your body, part by part, until you reach the top of your head, paying attention to where you carry stress and breathing deeply to relax.

Gratitude Flip

Start by taking several unhurried, deep breaths, and identify an obstacle that’s frustrating you. Think about why it’s frustrating you. Then try to identify a reason to be grateful for the challenge. Asset Education provided this example: “I’m grateful that I wasn’t invited to dinner with my friends because now I know that that’s not how I want to treat people.”

Finger Breathing

Gently hold your left thumb with your right hand and take a deep, slow breath in. Slowly exhale, then move your left hand to hold your right thumb. Inhale, then exhale. Switch again, using your right hand to grasp your left index finger. Inhale, then exhale. Use your left hand to hold your right index finger. Follow this calming pattern until you’ve taken a breath while clasping each of your fingers.

This article was originally published in 5280 August 2020.
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil
Angela Ufheil is a Denver-based journalist and 5280's former digital senior associate editor.