The official blog of the Lung Institute.
The psychological effects of lung disease can be challenging. Here’s what you can do.
Anyone suffering from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease can tell you that the psychological effects of the disease can be just as debilitating as the physical. And as the effects of lung disease become more pronounced, they can erode one’s previous quality of life creating feelings of shame, helplessness, fear, depression and a lack of motivation. Although these issues can be overwhelmingly difficult to overcome, with your health in mind, the Lung Institute has put together a short list addressing 5 psychological challenges of lung disease and how to overcome them.
Shame is a feeling we all experience at one time or another. It is the voice inside reminding us of some internal weakness that seems visible for all to see. For those who suffer from lung disease, this feeling can be unshakeable. It can start with an incessant cough in a crowded place, unwanted scrutiny of an oxygen tank, or exhaustion in the presence of family members.
How to Overcome
When dealing with shame, it’s important to remember that you’re your own best friend. Give yourself positive reinforcement–tell yourself you’re great until you mean it, forgive yourself for your mistakes, and challenge your negative thoughts. You forgive those you love—forgive yourself as well, and move forward without looking back.
It’s been said that depression is rage turned inward–a sadness that seems to seep into one’s total outlook on life. And it’s not uncommon. Depression is often introduced after diagnosis, and as deeply ingrained as it may seem, this common affliction is possible to overcome. The key is to start small and build up.
How to Overcome
In tackling depression, the first thing to realize is that it’s okay to feel depressed; it’s temporary. In starting small, develop happiness from within by doing the things you love. It could be anything. Have a conversation with someone you love. Watch your favorite show, go fishing, or play ping-pong. Perhaps most importantly, practice being mindful of the things life has given you to be grateful for. No matter how dire your circumstances, if you sit down with pen and paper and make a “gratitude list,” you will be amazed by how many items flow from your pen. This takes practice, and starting can seem pointless, but practicing gratitude builds its own momentum, and that can result in joy.
Fear is universal, but it isn’t always a negative. At its worst, fear can be crippling. And for those facing the incurability of lung disease, the future can look scary. On the other hand, ask yourself, “What is courage?” Courage is feeling fear and acting anyway; it’s moving forward in the face of fear that defines bravery.
How to Overcome:
The difference in being shaken by fear and overcoming it is the decision to act. And the key to overcoming fear is changing your perception. To realize that it’s okay to be afraid, as long as it doesn’t stop you from making that first step. Resolve to make your own decisions, not to allow fear to make them for you.
For those with a disability, the feeling of helplessness is common. Believing they are incapable of caring for themselves a feeling of helplessness can be more constructed than real, fostering in an unnecessary dependence on others. Instead of asking first what they can do for themselves, even if it’s only one small thing, someone suffering from helplessness looks to others.
How to Overcome:
Ask yourself what you can achieve on your own before asking for help. Mentally separate yourself from those that you feel dependent on by regaining your individualism. After some time and renewed independence, re-establish relationships within a new dynamic. You’ll surprise yourself, and others, with what you can do.
1. Lack of Motivation
More than other entries on this list, loss of motivation may be most common. Whether it’s a pledge to get in shape, change a diet, or learn a new language, we’ve often felt a lack of willpower to act. For people with COPD and other lung diseases, a lack of motivation in changing their lifestyle can lead to personal catastrophe.
How to Overcome:
Set realistic goals with a purpose in mind. Ask yourself if a goal supports the overall purpose. If not, consider abandoning it. As the 16th century samurai Miyamoto Musashi wrote, “Do nothing which is of no use.” In moving towards your goal, remember that progress isn’t always easy; envision success when you succeed and regret if you were to quit. Draw inspiration from as many sources as possible, and be willing to forgive yourself. And always remember, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.
A shift in positive outlook is critical for living with COPD and other lung diseases, but for physical relief, alternative treatment may be necessary. If you or a loved one suffers from COPD, or any lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help with a variety of stem cell treatment options. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 to find out if you qualify for stem cell therapy!
Struggling with the psychological challenges of Lung Disease? We encourage you to share your story, thoughts and comments on our list of 5 Ways to Overcome the Psychological Challenges of Lung Disease.