Holding Your Breath at Work? How to Overcome Email Apnea

While at first glance the term seems like it might imply email that is so dull it lulls you to sleep momentarily – a typographical narcolepsy perhaps, it’s actually a term that describes when someone holds their breath when working at a computer.

This wreaks havoc on the balance in your body and eventually can negatively affect your digestion, stress hormone, blood pressure, immune system, ability focus and sleep. You are denying fuel to your cells so that they are constantly in either starving or trying to recover. Then you wonder why after weeks or even years of this, your systems start shutting down, your body is tight (particularly your neck and shoulders) and you suffer from at least one GI problem (acid reflux, constipation, irritable bowel) then can’t get to sleep at night without medication.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Track yourself. You will find that you are holding your breath at a certain time of the day. Many of my patients will have it before lunch (related to having “by lunchtime deadlines) or during the second half of the day when deadlines for projects/assignments are due. Have an hour-by-hour tally where you simply just add a line and then see where it seems they are clustered. Then problem solve from there.
  2. You probably start out ok but the more concentrated you become, the worse your posture is and the more likely you are to “forget” to inhale. Have your posture be your cue that you are reaching that time when you usually hold your breath. (If posture is not a cue for you, find something that is paired with your breathhold that is).
  3. When you find you are holding your breath, exhale first, at least your first few breaths will be deeper because you’ve emptied out old air, rather than just adding to it, then continuing shallow breaths.
  4. Think about watching a horror movie, when the main protagonist is going in the basement you are probably holding your breath. This is kind of the same scenario. Since your body is barely moving – in fact all that is moving are your fingertips and eyelids—its easy for the rest of your body to follow suit and stop moving (=breathing) as well. Every few minutes move a little, just to jolt your system.
  5. What feeling are you having when you find you are holding your breath? Is it excitement? Is it fear of a looming deadline? Is it intense concentration of a topic you love? As you approach that feeling, keep an awareness on your body so you can untrain it from this bad habit.

Take this as a big lesson that you are experiencing stress that is heightened enough to be doing something pretty extreme to you. Attitude change? Change in priorities? Time for a job change?

by Belisa Vranich and Lindsay Minerva

Read more about how people stop breathing properly when typing on the Daily Mail.

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