“WHOOOOOOSH.” Every molecule of oxygen suddenly vacates your lungs like swimmers heading for land after a shark warning. Then: “SSSSSSSSSUCK.” Automatically, he reverse action sucks more air into your lungs than a tsunami hitting the same beach.

We’ve all felt it- the exhale- after a long breath holding. It is automatic and barely controllable. The “Whoosh . Suck. Effect.”

I felt it today, and I had no idea that I was holding my breath. A number of issues have been up in the air for a while.. and today- one was resolved. The “WHOOSH. SUCK. Effect” was audible, and I was not the only one who felt it.

I didn’t know I was holding my breath. But, I’m not surprised. I’ve done it before- both figuratively and physically. I’ve learned that physically holding your breath usually ends in one of 2 ways- “The WHOOSH. SUCK. Effect” (complete with sore ribs from trying to hold your breath.. ) or, by waking up circled by concerned faces because I’ve passed out on the floor. Neither of which is particularly pleasant. The first gives me a nasty lightheaded feeling followed by a headache…and the second? Is just plain embarrassing.

For me, it’s usually fear that makes me hold my breath. Fear of physical pain makes me hold my breath physically, fear of emotional pain, makes me hold my breath emotionally. My body reacts to the fear as if it’s convinced that holding my breath could stop time or change my circumstances. It doesn’t. Lord knows, it’s TRIED.

Physically- I’ve been known to hold my breath during blood draws. This is not a good idea- people will come running when a pregnant woman hits the floor. I also physically held my breath during my middle son’s worst asthma attacks.. my sides felt like I’d been in a car accident. It took days for things to loosen up and for us to finally figure out that I’d been holding my breath during his breathing treatments.. I suppose I was willing him to breathe- by holding mine.

Emotionally- I’ve held my breath while waiting for an outcome to a problem or while I’m waiting for a decision. I’ve also been known to hold my breath when I’ve been hurt. That sharp intake of breath that you HOLD when you’re physically hurt is what that feels like. (Todays’ “Whoosh Suck Effect” was brought to us by the feeling of FEAR and impending doom that did not materialize. :)

For me-emotional breath holding takes various forms:

Paralysis. (I can’t, or don’t do anything) It’s difficult to DO anything when you are out of or conserving oxygen!

Panting. (I do EVERYTHING possible as fast as possible and hyperventilate myself with activity that leaves me just as lightheaded as holding my breath does.)

Pulling back. Pulling back emotionally can be a form of holding your breath. Like holding your breath when you’ve been hurt physically, for short periods of time it can be a healthy way to heal..and even to protect yourself. But, for long ones it leads loss of necessary fresh oxygen and eventually to an emotional gangrene. Just like cutting off oxygen to a body part would.

None of these do me any good, in the long term. I end up- overwhelmed with all that I should have been doing during my paralysis (I’m pretty much there, now), exhausted from doing stuff I shouldn’t have (been there, done that) and rotten feeling from the inside out from cutting off the oxygen I desperately need from friends. (been there, too)

Here’s the thing. I know better. I know what works and I know what hurts. Yet- I sometimes hold my breath, anyways. Sometimes, it’s not until the “Whoosh! Suck! Effect” takes place that I even know I’ve been holding my breath. Sometimes it’s sore ribs that alert me, long after the fact.

Once in a while, I catch on right at the “Whoosh” when I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me. When I catch it early… I’ve learned to pray. When I pray and share with God and others the fear that’s threatening to steal my breath away… I feel myself catch my breath. My ribcage loosens, my breathing slows to a normal rate. The tingly, icy oxygen starved limbs slowly start to warm. Even if the threat or pain is still there, I can continue to breathe, the fear and the pain dissipate. Like when I was in labor- and used Lamaze to help my body deal with pain… I can do what I need to- no longer paralyzed and starving for air.

Are you holding your breath? Has something knocked the wind right out of you.. or is something stressful making you hold your breath for the outcome?

BREATHE. No- really. Take a physical breath. Then talk. To God- He’s already listening. And to someone else. It’s really hard to hold your breath when you’re talking… I know– I’ve tried:)

Dear Lord— Thank you for reminding me to breathe.. thank you for teaching me that holding my breath won’t change my circumstances and usually hurts me in the long run. Lord- help me not to be paralyzed when fear or pain come. Help me to not run panting after busyness and end up lightheaded with exhaustion. Give me wisdom to know when I need to pull back and wisdom to know when pulling back hurts. God surround me with people that share their oxygen,a nd give me courage to share mine . Lord- for anyone who stops by here- may they find a fresh breath from you… oxygen for the body and the soul. Just as real as the first breath you breathed into Adam..I love you Lord- amen.

Genesis 2:7 (New International Version)

the LORD God formed the man The Hebrew for man (adam) sounds like and may be related to the Hebrew for ground (adamah) it is also the name Adam (see Gen. 2:20). from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

an old song.. that helps me remember to breathe…..