80% of the people reading this post are holding their breath.
Linda Stone shared some fascinating research findings on breathing patterns and work, specifically our interrupted breathing patterns while we work in front of computer screens. After reading the article, I noticed that I also switch to shallow breathing or holding my breath when reading email. Perhaps it triggers stress as I read the emails and am reminded of the long list of issues I’m already troubleshooting.
With email apnea, or compromised breathing, we tend to go into a “fight or flight” or stressed state. Consider: when we’re afraid, we inhale and hold our breath. In a fight or flight state, the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight nervous system, is activated and causes the liver to dump glucose and cholesterol and the heart rate increases. We crave sugar and carbohydrates.
Studies have shown that cumulative breath holding contributes to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic, the kidneys begin to re-absorb sodium, and as the balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide becomes compromised, our biochemistry is thrown off.
It’s believed that many of us spend seven hours or more in front of screens each day. In 2011, researcher Emmanuel Stamatakis, found that “…even those who exercise can’t overcome the detrimental effects of too much screen time,” More here.
If you notice that you have email apnea, what can you do?
Practice awareness. The next time you look something up on your smartphone, or catch yourself responding to a text or email, notice: Are you breathing or holding your breath? Are you aware of your whole body? Or are you mostly aware of the keyboard, your fingers (and your typos!)? Are you holding yourself stiffly or does your body feel relaxed?
Take a break! Get up once an hour for at least 5-10 minutes. Walk around and take a break. In Finland, students take a break every 45 minutes for 15 minutes and this has been shown to be effective.
Dance. Dancing is a terrific exercise. It can help with breathing, posture, and moving to rhythm.
Sing. Singing is a great way to learn breathing techniques and to improve lung capacity.
Read Linda’s earlier posts on email apnea: