Breathe for Change: Well-Being Matters

By: Kristen Brey, NAMI Dane County Board Member

This past weekend I had the opportunity to observe a Breathe for Change workshop that was co-hosted by SSM Health, NAMI Dane County and Big Brothers Big Sisters.  The mission of BBBS is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally-supported, one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better.  A majority of the children served by BBBS come from low-income, single parent families, which can often cause significant stress.  This stress can lead to disturbances at school and trouble in the home.  Understanding how all of these issue are connected, BBBS, NAMI Dane County and SSM Health partnered together to offer a day-long event to teach the Littles, along with their Bigs, some mindfulness skills that they could take with them at home and in school to deal with stress, anger and anxiety. 

Throughout the workshop, the Bigs and Littles were able to do a variety of activities that taught them about breathing, mindfulness, yoga and meditation.  Each participant was provided a copy of the book “Moody Cow Meditates” and were able to make their own glitter calm bottles.  It was explained to the children how they can put the glitter in the jar to represent anything that stresses them out or causes them anxiety.  When feeling agitated or stressed, they can then shake the jar and practice deep breathing until all of the glitter settles to the bottom of the jar.  Speaking from personal experience, having one at my desk works wonders!

The group also learned some standing and chair yoga poses.  As a regular practitioner of yoga, it was great to see the young people in the room who hadn’t had the chance to experience yoga get to try out some new moves.  Yoga is often not accessible to people living in low income environments so by being able to provide instruction on how the kids can do the poses at home or in school to reduce stress was amazing. 

The Bigs and Littles were also provided with youth-specific NAMI Recovery Bags to take home with them.  Each bag contained a variety of sensory items and instructions on how to use them to relieve anxiety and stress during trying times. 

It was an amazing afternoon of seeing collaboration amongst area non-profits towards the common goal of educating and providing resources to youth around mental illness. The pictures speak for themselves.