Check in with yourself for a moment, right now.
Are you breathing?
I know it sounds like a silly question.
If you weren’t breathing you’d be dead.
But are you really breathing, or are you holding your breath or breathing shallow?
Do You Have Screen Apnea?
Many of us hold our breath often during the day, especially while looking at screens.
Linda Stone, a former executive at Microsoft, coined the terms email apnea and screen apnea in 2008 to describe this phenomenon.
She observed how she and others that she witnessed either were holding their breath in front of screens or breath by ing very shallow. When talking on the phone, most people engage in mouth breathing or hyperventilating.
Email apnea is defined as
a temporary absence or suspension of breathing, or shallow breathing, while doing email.
Screen apnea is the same, obviously without the email. It applies when we’re reading online, checking social media, or playing games online.
Independently of reading about Stone’s findings, I had noticed the same thing in my self and others around me.
The Impact of Screen Apnea
Shallow breathing, breath-holding and hyperventilating trigger the sympathetic nervous system, which is also known as our “fight-or-flight” response.
This contributes to our feeling scattered, spinning, unfocused, and not attuned to our surroundings.
Perhaps more significantly, shallow breathing and breath-holding impair our immune system responses, which can lead to disease.
How to Fix It
Fortunately, the medicine for this is free and easy to obtain:
Pause what you’re doing, even for just a minute, and engage in focus, conscious breaths.
Slowing down your pace, and making your exhale longer than your inhale, can help bring your nervous system back into homeostasis.
If you can do this for a few minutes, that would be great. But even just a minute of slow, diaphragmatic breathing will help you create space to get clear and focused.