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30 Second Breaks: Strategies for Emotional Self-Regulation


Emotional self-regulation is the ability to monitor and manage your own emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in ways that produce positive results. Self-regulation takes a lot of self-awareness and practice. It can be especially difficult to practice such self-control during moments of heightened emotion or increased demands. Teaching your child strategies to regulate their emotions will help decrease negative behavior at home and in the classroom, while enabling positive interactions with peers, and improving their overall mental health and well-being.


Here are several strategies to help prompt your child to take a controlled break.

Remember, it’s beneficial to model self-control in your words and actions for your kids to see. We want kids to accept the usefulness of these strategies – that will come from positive support, practice, and modeling from others.


30 Second Calm Down Strategies:

  1. Take 30 seconds to practice mindful eating.

  2. Crumble a piece of paper, then mindfully and slowly smooth it out

  3. Calm down with the five senses: This tool can be used in a variety of ways. For instance, you can prompt your child to identify: 3 things in the room that are blue, 2 things that he/she can hear, 4 things in the room that start with the letter A, etc.

  4. Put your hands on a table (or another surface such as your legs) and count to 10 by raising each individual finger, one at a time, starting with your right pinky

  5. Spend 30-seconds playing with a fidget. To provide more structure, you can offer controlled choices in offering types of fidgets (ball, squishy, Play-Doh, pipe cleaner, fidget spinner). You can also provide instruction in how to engage with the fidget item for the duration of the 30-seconds. For instance, “Let’s take a quick break by rolling the ball on the table”. Often, it’s fun to give them small and engaging challenges. For example, “You have 30 seconds to make a shape with your pipe cleaner.”

  6. 30 seconds of controlled exercise or physical activity. This could include jumping jacks, pushing your hands against a wall as hard as you can and then relaxing, squeezing a ball or pillow

  7. Count to 10 in coordination with your breath.

  8. List 3 Things (i.e. things that you’re grateful for, favorite movies, favorite foods)

  9. Slowly trace your hand with your finger, breathing in as your finger trace your finger going up, and breathing out as you trace your finger going down

  10. Cross your arms in front of yourself to create an arm pretzel

  11. Say a predetermined positive affirmation or mantra out loud: (I am calm, I am in control, This feeling will pass)

  12. Squeeze your fists together as hard as you can. Relax your hands. Repeat.

  13. Take 5 sip of cold water (or a Calm Down Drink or Juice to make it fun!

  14. Take 30 Seconds to THINK. Is it… True? Helpful? Important? Necessary? Kind

  15. Picture your mind as a control panel (i.e. a spaceship control room, remote control, game controller, etc.). Find the button labeled “calm down”.

  16. Picture your happy place (in real life, Minecraft, etc.).

  17. Think of 3 personal strengths.

This list of strategies was created by Chelsea Harris, ATR-BC and LPC. Chelsea is a Board-Certified Registered Art Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor. She provides therapy services for children and adolescents at Art it Out Therapy Center in Vinings, GA.


As always, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at L.molloy@stbs.org if you have questions and/or concerns about your child's social and/or emotional well-being.



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St. Benedict's Episcopal School

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