Holding my breath, instead of breathing through my pain, emotional and physical, has been one of my major problems. I have definitely improved, especially compared to this entry that I found recently in my therapy notes:
"2/8/09 - . . . I am running on an endless treadmill of a project or stress thinking that if I just put all my efforts into it I will get it done and then I can move on with my life. I keep thinking "get this done, then I can live." What I need to do is live, breathe, love and do the project in between breaths, not the other way around. I try to focus on the stress thinking by "doing" so I can make the stress go away, but I see now life doesn't work that way. I have got to quit holding my breath through the trial and just breathe. Breathe life and live it and let the stress pass through me instead of consume me, but how? I only know how to just hold my breath and take the pain and hope that it ends soon. . . . I don't know how to put the concept into practice. . . . When I am faced with a stresser I push harder at it and what I need to do is walk away, breathe deeply, let go of thoughts, allow peace and healing to enter my body and stay with that as long as I need to. . . . I keep pushing at the problem even though every ounce of my energy is gone. Instead of re-grouping, eating, breathing, recuperating and coming back with more energy, I try to do it depleted. . . . The more I push the harder it gets, but I don't want to give up. I'll take any amount of pain if in the end it will be better. I'll take it all, I'll sacrifice everything, every bit of me, if in the end it will be better. . . . [H]ere I am realizing I was pushing hard hoping on the other side would be the happiness . . . the happiness is before the pushing. . . . I pushed when I needed to breathe (like in labor) I never stopped to breathe, I just pushed. Eventually you have no energy if you don't stop to breathe."
Finally realizing that holding my breath wasn't helping me made a huge difference. It is awareness that gave me the strength to change. Now I can stop, think things through, take a deep breath and then make a better decision. I can say to myself, "I really have been working a lot, I need to take some time to recuperate" and do it without feeling guilty. I couldn't do that before, I didn't have the skills nor did I even realize what the problem was. All I knew was that I was exhausted, but I just had to keep "doing" as it was all I knew. "Do" and you get acknowledgment, "do" and you feel worthwhile, "do" and you are a good person and so on.
Now when I am working on a project or feel stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, I don't keep pushing, I pause and breathe. I take a minute to determine the problem then decide on a reasonable solution. Sometimes that solution is to take a break, deal with the emotions, finish the project later, get help, etc. I know that I don't have to do it all on my own anymore or all at that moment. Life is definitely better when you don't hold your breath!