Are you holding your breath while reading this? I mean, I do expect regular readers to be thus entranced when a new blog arrives, but otherwise is this the case? If so, you’re not alone. 

I was replying to an email recently (not a particularly tricky one I might add, though they can be in the mix) and realised that I wasn’t really breathing. I was taking small breaths, no doubt, (and was therefore, thankfully, alive) but I wasn’t doing it properly. It was as if I was holding my breath in fear or anxiety. This is a phenomenon called ‘email apnoea’ and it could be that up to 80% of us are doing it. This is not good news in our technologically-heavy world. If we spend up to five (or eight if you’re a teen) hours on our phones per day, it stands to reason that screen use is indeed the new smoking. Our lungs are not happy at all. These incredible organs can do so much but we no longer help them out.

Holding our breath contributes to stress-related diseases and disturbs the body’s balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide, which helps keep our immune system strong. Shallow breathing can also trigger our sympathetic nervous system ‘fight or flight’ response. If we stay in this state of emergency breathing and hyper-arousal for extended periods of time, it can not only impact sleep, memory, and learning, but also exacerbate anxiety and depression.

It now makes perfect sense that I feel anxious when I get a notification or attempt to write an email response (or blog). My body is trying to tell me something. We usually need outside forces to remind us though. When I was on my way to my brother’s funeral some years ago I got an amazing message from my best friend. Katy’s words were wise and simple: ‘all you have to do today is breathe’. And she was right. My lungs got my head and heart through that difficult day. 

Our bodies are constantly trying to keep us alive and well. Screen breaks, noticing our breath and even exhaling slightly longer than inhaling can all help. Deep breaths, everyone. Everything is going to be all right.