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A Request From a Lifelong Breath-Holder

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I have spent the vast majority of my life holding my breath. I do it when I’m anxious, when I’m stressed, when I’m agitated, when I’m preoccupied… so pretty much all the time. I’ve been doing the bare basic amount of breathing required to keep me upright, and then when someone (usually my therapist) pointed it out to me, I’d manage one deep breath and go straight back to holding.

The more I’ve talked about this, the more I’ve realized I’m far from the only one to do it. I can even see it with my kids and regularly have to remind them to breathe, particularly when they’re upset. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of talk about mindfulness and about the power of the breath. I’ve done yoga since I was 17 so I know how important breathing is and how beneficial it can be.

How we breathe has an impact on us physiologically, which in turn has an impact on us chemically. Then that has an impact on us emotionally, and before we know where we are, we’re tied up in knots, all for the want of breathing. I guess the problem is once we start down that route, we get more and more tense and less able to think of what we can do to help ourselves, simply by not breathing right.

After a lot of therapy, after all my years of resisting breathing properly, after how utterly dismissive I’ve been of breathing exercises, I’m finally starting to see they actually do work. I don’t do a specific meditation or mindfulness practice, but I’m more aware of where and how I’m breathing, and if I notice that it’s really shallow, I stop long enough to take a deep breath. It’s such a small step, but at the same time, such a big one.

So, if you do nothing else today, will you try this one thing? Will you try taking a deep breath?

Thinkstock photo by Camrocker

Originally published: November 23, 2016
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