Throughout our lifetime we will encounter numerous stressors, both good and bad. Good stress includes but is not limited to getting excited for something, having a change in emotions for the better, and that nervous butterfly feeling you get in your stomach for numerous reasons. However, when you add COPD to the mix, it is imperative to balance and manage your bad stressors.
COPD Related Stressors
- Shortness of Breath
- Inability to Complete Tasks
- Taking On Too Much at Once
- Running Low on Oxygen
- Planning Big Events
- Getting Sick
- Lack of Sleep
How Does Stress Affect Your COPD?
Stress is a part of our everyday lives, but with COPD it is more prevalent and persistent. Our bodies have "alarm systems" that notify the brain if something isn't right. With a disease like COPD you have trouble getting enough oxygen which can cause your body to send signals to your brain letting it know that there is an issue. When your brain gets that signal, it sends out a warning that is like a rush of anxiety. Because COPD can cause you to feel short of breath at any given moment, your body alarming can be a constant source of stress.
Stress related to COPD can stem from a number of different avenues. One reason it is important to keep your stressors under control when you have COPD is that you are at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are known to weaken the immune system and increase your chances of experiencing an exacerbation.
Stress can certainly have a negative effect on your COPD symptoms. Stress is known to increase your chances of experiencing an acute exacerbation of your COPD symptoms as well as weaken your immune system. With your immune system weakened, you are more susceptible to catching a cold, the flu, and other illnesses. If you are under a lot of stress, you may also notice your COPD symptoms getting worse and becoming more prevalent.
How to Alleviate COPD Related Stress
Whenever you start feeling a rush of anxiety or an overbearing presence of stress take a break from whatever you may be doing, sit down and relax, and use your breathing techniques. You should also try to do something to take your mind off of your stress or anxiety like reading a book or turning the tv on while you focus on using your pursed lips breathing technique.
Some outside stressors like cooking a large meal for company or hosting a party can magnify your COPD related stress. By making an organized plan of how and when you need everything to be completed can help reduce any chaos and stress brought on by your event.
With a disease like COPD, it's going to be hard to fight the battle alone. It's nice to have family and friends there to support you and help you when you need it, but they might not be able to understand exactly how you feel or what you need to change. Look for a local support group or get involved in a pulmonary education program to interact with other patients fighting the same battle as you. Giving and getting advice from fellow patients can be very beneficial and you can even make some new friends.
If you tried the tips above and still feel an overwhelming presence of stress and anxiety, consider talking to your doctor about getting anti-anxiety medication.+Caleb Umstead