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.