Character Chats

Calming Strategies

Calming strategies.

Here at True Balance Karate, we have a social emotional learning program called True Character. I’m Master H, owner and chief instructor here at the studio, and I have two master’s degrees in education. I’ve taught kids from kindergarten through eighth grade, and we’ve developed this curriculum to meet the needs of our youngest kids who are three or four, and our oldest students who’s actually 85.

This month, we are talking about composure. We started off about defining it as staying calm and in control of our emotions. Last week, we were talking about how we can recognize the feelings in others, but that we needed to pay attention to the way our body feels, the way our mind feels, how the feelings get demonstrated in ourselves.

Keeping our composure

And this week, we’re coming up with some calming strategies. What can we do as we begin to feel really super anxious or really overwhelmed or really angry, or when we feel like we’ve reached the points of that volcanic explosion and we’re really trying to maintain our composure, keep that calm, keep that control over how we’re feeling and what we’re doing.

And so some of those strategies, we are all very familiar with. Breathing, taking deep, huge breaths and letting them out. Some people have described it as smelling the roses and blowing out birthday candles. Some people call it diaphragmatic breathing, where you’re breathing into your belly and then you’re holding it, and then you’re slowly exhaling it. Some people will breathe in through their nose and then out through their mouth. Either way, breathing can help us calm ourselves down. Breathing can give us something different to focus on. And when you talk with the younger students, they’re like, “Oh yeah, just distract yourself,” which is great.

To them, it means go play a video game. But when you concentrate on your breathing, you are distracting yourself. You are giving yourself something else to focus on rather than the out of control. I’m going to lose my cool feelings that you’re currently feeling. So breathing can be a really good distraction. Counting, whether it’s forwards or backwards can be a good distraction, especially if you pair it with, “I’m going to incrementally relax my body as I’m counting.”

Relaxing distractions

When my kids would sometimes have those big feelings, we would check in with different body parts. All right, focus only on your toes. Can you feel just your toes? Clench only the toe muscles. Now, I want you to clench only your ankle muscles. And it was kind of funny because they’d be like, “Really mom, my ankle muscles?”

But again, if they’re using a distraction technique, it’s giving them something different to focus on. Sometimes it’s coloring, drawing, writing, doodling, holding a pencil in our hand, and just scribbling, right? Sometimes we find that that is a good way to calm ourselves down. At some point, I was given a meditative coloring book, and I have not personally needed to use it. However, I do find it to be a relaxing exercise. I haven’t needed it for composure. I used it more as the meditation side of things, but picking which color you want to use. And then coloring can be a very distracting, calming opportunity for us.

Physical outlets

And then for some of us, we like to be physical. We need to turn on our favorite songs and have a dance party in our kitchen to let out the excess energy that we’re feeling. When we lose our composure, earlier I likened it to kind of a volcanic explosion, right? We’re trying to maintain our calm, we’re trying to maintain our cool, we’re staying in control. And then all of a sudden it’s like a volcanic explosion and we lose it, and we’re ranting and raving. But if we could let it out with a dance party, with some exercise, with a walk, with other types of physical activity, that could be a good strategy to utilize to help us stay composed and calm and cool and collected. And I mentioned listening to your favorite song. Maybe you’re listening to your favorite song and not dancing, but the music itself helps calm you. Reading a book.

There’s a multitude of things that we can do to help us maintain our composure. Some things will work for you that won’t work for me, and some things work for me that won’t work for you. But if we share our strategies, we can find ways to help ourselves do better every time we have to maintain our composure.

Thanks, and I’ll see you on the mat!


True Balance Karate was founded in 2012 by Master Sue and Paul Helsdon.

We offer kids karate lessons for pre-school children ages 3-6 and elementary age kids ages 7 and up. These lessons are designed to develop the critical building blocks kids need — specialized for their age group — for school excellence and later success in life.

Our adult martial arts training is a complete adult fitness and conditioning program for adults who want to lose weight, get (and stay) in shape, or learn self-defense in a supportive environment.

Instructors can answer questions or be contacted 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week at 630-663-2000. You can also contact us here. True Balance Karate is at 406 Ogden Ave Downers Grove Illinois, 60515 (next to CVS) Check out our Facebook!