Read this if you’re forgetting to breathe

I wrote recently about some of the physical symptoms I’ve been living with lately as a result of my anxiety.

Soon after I wrote that piece I had a revelation. It sounds silly, but I am literally forgetting to breathe…

I keep holding my breath. 

It seems to start at about 10.30am. By this time I’ve been at work for 1.5-2 hours so the routine of saying good morning, making a cup of tea, getting those first bits and pieces done are over and I’m stuck into my tasks. I’m likely bored and my mind is starting to drift by this point, inevitably turning to what I wish I was doing instead and dredging up all the emotions I feel about my career.

I presume therefore it is anxiety that causes my breathing to change.

I seem to start holding my breath, repeatedly. I don’t realise I’m doing it until I start to feel the effects. My chest aches and my heart races, my temperature drops, I feel sick and headachey and faint due to the lack of oxygen, and my eyesight is blurry. It takes me at least half an hour of focused breathing to reduce the chest pain, but the rest of the symptoms will likely stay with me the rest of the day and will give me a hangover-like feeling throughout the next day.

My breathing technique to combat this

The only breathing technique I have found to work is to count to 5 on the in breath, and count to 5 on the out breath.

Do this as SOON as you realise you’re holding your breath, and KEEP doing it until you feel a bit calmer and the tightness in your chest has subsided a bit.

I am not sure why this works but because it is unforced it seems to relax me a bit. If I try anything else, such as 7-11 breathing (breathing OUT for a longer count than breathing IN), it seems to panic me even more.  I just can’t make my out breath that long, my breathing is too erratic.

Distract yourself

Since I’ve realised that I am doing this, I have panicked even more about it happening, seeing as it is triggered by a situation I encounter daily which doesn’t help.

I am gaining confidence in my breathing technique though, I know it will get me through. 

I also have a load of music and podcasts downloaded on my iPod, from self-help to meditation to entrepreneurship to comedy, and I’ll stick my earphones on and try to breathe through it whilst listening to something to distract me.

Look after yourself

When I get home I will flop onto the sofa in the softest PJs I have at my disposal, with my boy Baxter, and lie there in a heap doing as little as possible. I will eat something comforting, then get an early night. I really can’t do much else after a day like that.

I just make sure I am warm and comfortable, and get some rest.


I do think awareness is the biggest weapon against holding your breath.

Now I know I’m doing it, I am observing WHEN I’m doing it and I am developing specific tools that get me through it. Gradually I think it will decrease and become completely manageable.

I am going to see my Doctor about this so if she offers me any nuggets of wisdom I will share them here.

Have a relaxed Monday everyone, and keep breathing. xx


2 thoughts on “Read this if you’re forgetting to breathe

  1. Pingback: Pushing through nasty self-doubt | Freedom, Birdie!

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