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  • Writer's picturepaulaholahan

Do you ever forget to breathe?

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

"Sometimes it's the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life" Steve Marabali

  • Do you ever forget to breathe?

  • Does your breath ever get stuck in your chest?

I know it sometimes happens to me and I used to wonder why something so basic as breathing, how is it possible that we can forget if we have done it or even how to breathe properly.

The breath is so important as it is the first thing we do when we come into this world and the last to go when we leave it.

Why do we forget to breathe properly?

In times of, excitement, stress, pain or anxiety we can forget to breathe because our brain has perceived a threat whether it be positive or negative. In coaching psychology we call these stressors.

Because our brain (a wonderful thing) prepares our bodies for a fight or flight response. We sometimes may get butterflies in our tummies. This is adrenaline been pumped around our body to give us a boost of energy and we hold our breath to get ready for flight because our lungs are filling with air.

This was great in times of dinosaurs when stressors were life or death situations but present day we don't need this response anymore (well not all the time). The problem is our brain still perceives a stressor as if a dinosaur is coming after us (Palmer S & Cooper C, 2013).

How can we tell our brain to react differently?

One of the things we can do is being aware of our breath. By breathing deeply we can change the physical response to stress. Research demonstrates that deep breathing, practicing mindfulness and yoga, Cognitive Behavioural Stress Management techniques can all help reduce the fight or flight response.

If we practice awareness of how our body feels in a stressful situation such as holding our breath, sweating, fast heartbeat, by breathing deeply we can restore our bodies to a relaxed state. The more we practice, the quicker we can relax (Palmer S & Cooper C, 2013) (NHS) (BHF).

What are the benefits?

The benefits of practicing deep breathing relaxation techniques is slowing down the heart rate which can contribute to reducing the effects of chronic heart disease and reacting to negative situations in a positive way, therefore reducing our stress levels.


I would love to invite you to practice the following simple relaxation technique. There are lots of apps to choose from and this has been taken from the NHS website (NHS). Try practising first in a quiet area when you are already in a calm state. It takes about 20 minutes to come out of the fight or flight response.

So if you are having an argument with a work colleague, partner, children, parents, siblings, friend, walk away for 20 minutes, practice breathing and then come back in a positive mindset to resolve the situation.

Make yourself as comfortable as you can

  • If you're lying down, place your arms a little bit away from your sides, with the palms up. Let your legs be straight or bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor

  • If you're sitting, place your arms on the chair arms

  • If you're sitting or standing, place both feet flat on the ground. Whatever position you're in, place your feet roughly hip-width apart

  • Let your breath flow as deep down into your belly as is comfortable, without forcing it

  • Try breathing in your nose and out through your mouth

  • Breathe in gently and regularly. Some people find it helpful to count steadily from one to five. you may not be able to reach five at first and that is okay

  • Then, without pausing or holding your breath, let it flow out gently, counting from one to five again, if you find this helpful, keep doing this for three to five minutes

Take care, Paula

See our other pages on: Criticism; Coaching; Stress Management; Action Plan; Perfectionism; Procrastination


Marabali S, Unapologetically You: Reflections on life and the human experience

Palmer S & Cooper G, 2013, How to Deal with Stress, Creating Success, Kogan Page Ltd: London

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