By Chiagoziem Bede Ikwueze

On countless occasions, I’ve caught myself holding my breath while sending an email, and I bet you have too. Statistics show that 80% of people unconsciously breathe shallowly or hold their breath while typing. The reason is not far-fetched because the brain stops certain subconscious functions such as temperature regulation, hunger signals, and breathing to focus on the important tasks at hand. This phenomenon does not have any harmful effects if it occasionally happens, as it is pretty common.

However, it can lead to severe health consequences if it occurs repeatedly. Email apnea creates an imbalance in the body and negatively affects blood pressure, digestion, the immune system, cognition, sleep and stress hormone. It eventually leads to a system shutdown after weeks or years because the body cells will begin to malfunction.

The natural way I could avoid email apnea may be to stop using my mailing app, but I can’t because there is always important business to take care of. However, here are some techniques that work for me.

Tracking My Breathing Patterns

Now, whenever I am typing an email, I consciously check whether or not my breathing is normal. If I’m holding my breath, I try to take deep breaths.

Over time, I have discovered the type of emails or tasks that make me hold my breath. This level of awareness has helped me to pay attention to my breathing during the email sending process. You too could use  a breathing exercise that enables you to tackle email apnea.

Practising Breathing

Despite the brain shutting down breathing to divert its resources towards tasks, I found I could train it to focus without inhibiting breathing.

Research shows that breathing helps boost cognitive functions, such as memory, executive function, and attention, reducing the need  to hold our breath to focus.

By consistently practising nasal breathing, I can maintain proper breathing in front of my screen. Ancient yogis invented this breathing method as it helped them to lessen anxiety, calm their minds and slow their breathing rate, allowing them to exercise for a longer duration without burning out.

Basic techniques can even remedy the damage caused by email apnea while helping improve our breathing habits and awareness. We can learn to control our breathing, even during stressful periods.

When next you find yourself unconsciously holding your breath while typing an email, use these tips to escape email apnea:

  • Make sure you’re always comfortably sitting uprightly with your back straight.
  • Take deep breaths through your nose and hold for 4 seconds to supply your lungs with a sufficient amount of air. While doing so, use your hand to measure if your belly rises before your chest.
  • Gently exhale through your mouth for about 8 seconds. After exhalation, take another gentle deep breath and slowly exhale for another 8 seconds.
  • Carry out this exercise 20 to 30 times, then inhale through your nose and exhale while slightly closing your lips to allow air to pass slowly. Ensure there is no tension on your muscles during exhalation. 
  • Repeat the entire process for 5 to 10 minutes every day, and your breathing pattern will continuously improve over time.

Arranging My Mailing Life

Another step I took to ease my email apnea is to set a specific time to reply or write new emails. My usual routine is to check my mail once I settle in to start working for the day and when I’m about to finish. 

Ensure you stick to your set time as it helps you prepare your mind and trains your brain to sustain breathing while you go about your task. Also, by categorising my incoming mail, I can prioritise the ones that need immediate attention and reduce the number of unread messages in my inbox.

Additionally, I try to unsubscribe from newsletters and mailing lists that I no longer have an interest in, helping avoid having tons of emails piling in my inbox. Another trick I learnt is to use autoresponders to reply to certain emails. 

Since autoresponders cannot always send suitable replies without my help, I  use them to tell the sender that I have received their mail and will respond soon. They help me eliminate the pressure of writing emails when I’m not prepared.

Email apnea isn’t a topic that many people talk about, but it is something you should be mindful of because it can cause severe health damages in the long run. Therefore, you should pay better attention to your breathing pattern while on-screen. If you notice any anomalies, try to carry out breathing exercises until you train your brain to sustain breathing while writing an email.