Oxygen Isn’t Optional

I find myself holding my breath.  A lot.  I do it so often that it’s no wonder that I can’t think straight sometimes: there’s little oxygen flowing to the brain. Forgetting to breathe is a huge part of my anxiety and being overwhelmed.  It exacerbates the feeling of drowning: gasping for air, the weight of deep waters pressing against my chest.  And I’m oblivious.  I’m oblivious until I begin to really panic.  I wonder why I’m panicking and realize that I’m holding my breath.

It’s a chicken or the egg conundrum: am I holding my breath because I’m anxious or am I anxious because I’m holding my breath?

I periodically see tips on breathing online or in magazines.  I used to inwardly guffaw: “Come on,” I would think, “breathing is automatic.  This is silly.”  I would dismiss it and move on.  But then a wise person gently pointed out (multiple times) that I stopped breathing when I was lost in thought, tense, or anxious.  It made me think.

It is a tendency of mine to be constantly annoyed that I have to work so hard at the “basics” and breathing is no exception, except I am beginning to realize that I’m certainly not alone in this.  Why else would there be tips, articles, and even whole chapters in books on breathing?

I have no insights or anything profound to say on this.  It’s just that I am encouraged that there is something tangible I can work on.  Breathing is something that I can control.  Without an enormous amount of effort I can train my brain to remind myself to breathe.  I made a promise to myself that I would make a conscious effort to pause and take a huge, deep-into-my-tummy breath when I looked at or thought about my garden.  I also told myself to take a deep breath whenever I am going up or down stairs.

Perhaps I will someday find that I won’t have to be as intentional about breathing.  Perhaps deep, healing breaths will become a part of the way I operate.  Perhaps I will find myself drowning less and breathing more.  I think it could happen.

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