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5 Smart Ways to Tackle the COPD Stress


COPD – Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Here are five COPD stress-management techniques you can adopt right away to ease stress and, in turn, your COPD symptoms:


Step 1. Treat COPD to Reduce Stress

The best way to reduce COPD stress is to get a handle on your COPD. “Use your medications on a regular basis to keep your airways dilated so you can breathe better,” says Hatipoglu. Bronchodilators help treat COPD by relaxing the muscles around the airways to keep them open.

Also, don’t forget to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations, because both illnesses can cause a COPD exacerbation and stress.


Step 2. Learn to Breathe Right, Right Now

When you’re under stress, you take quick and shallow breaths. This normal reaction is exaggerated when you have COPD, says Frederick S. Wamboldt, MD, the co-director of the Center for Health Promotion and a professor of medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver. “Air is stacking up in your chest, but you’re not breathing it out,” he says.

Instead, Dr. Wamboldt suggests trying pursed-lip breathing. Purse your lips and blow as much air out as you can, and then take a deep, comfortable breath in. “Slow down each breath so you are using as much of your lungs as you can,” he says.

Jane Ehrman, MEd, CHES, a behavioral specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains pursed-lip breathing like this: “Breathe through the pursed lips slowly and in a controlled way so you would flicker the flame of a candle without blowing it out.”


Step 3. Kick the Cigarette Habit

The main risk for developing COPD is cigarette smoking, says Wamboldt. “We know that people who are more stressed, anxious, or depressed are more likely to start and keep smoking, so this risk for developing COPD is tied up with stress from the start,” he explains. “Usually, people with COPD have a long history of smoking. But one of the single best things you can do at any time across the COPD trajectory is to stop smoking cigarettes.”


Step 4. Exercise Away COPD Stress and Anxiety

Exercise is an important part of any pulmonary rehabilitation program, and it also helps with COPD stress. “Exercise is shown to alleviate anxiety and depression among people with COPD,” Dr. Diaz says. It should be done under a doctor’s supervision or as part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program.


Step 5. Try a Mind-Body Technique

Relaxing mind-body treatments — such as yoga, tai chi, and meditation — also can help alleviate COPD stress and anxiety, Ehrman adds. One study done at the Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago showed that yoga can improve quality of life and lung function on a short-term basis.

Visualization exercises also can help you escape stress, Ehrman says. “Close your eyes and imagine being in a calm, peaceful place — this can be on the beach, in a garden, or in a room that is quiet and safe,” she suggests. Once there in your mind, focus on breathing away tension. “Think of it as imagination over matter,” Ehrman says. “Stay in the moment and calm yourself.” A goal, she adds, should be to find a mind-body technique that works for you, and then practice it in the face of stressful situations.

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