Yeah, it sounds simple enough to be stupid–if you’re in pain, you need to keep breathing.
But it’s *not* simple or straightforward to keep breathing when I’m curled into a fetal ball, muscles locked tight, every fiber of my being concentrated on the stabbing agony of an acute pain spike. Being in a strange place, likely in front of strangers while on travel, adds a nice thick layer of humiliation to the situation.
Lungs? What lungs? I don’t need no stinkin’ oxygen!
Oh. Wait. Possibly oxygen might help just a little bit. What with the need for blood flow and brain activity and stuff.
Last year I took a birthing class with my pregnant best friend. I learned the coolest thing–all those breathing techniques they teach pregnant women amount to two things: distraction and relaxation. There’s no special thing that panting in a four-count rhythm does to push babies out faster or better. It just helps Mom focus on something other than the physical sensation of her body pushing a grapefruit through a drinking straw.
It always takes me a second or ten to “find my breath” when an acute pain spike hits me unexpectedly. But once I can manage it, breathing helps me to relax and make it through the worst parts. I like to count as I breath–breathe in 1, 2, 3, 4 then breathe out 5,6,7,8. I don’t think the technique matters much–it’s the act of focusing on something other than the pain. Something I can control.
I’m not afraid anymore to sit down and breathe if I need to, even when I’m on the road. That might have been me you almost tripped over–the small pale woman sitting on the museum floor/downtown sidewalk/hiking trail. I’ll try to stay out of your way as I breathe myself back to a semblance of physical (and emotional) calm.
If you need it, I’ll offer you the spot next to me to sit and take a few deep breaths with me. Couldn’t hurt, might help.