At some point, everyone feels stress. Stress occurs as part of our daily lives, and there are different types of stress. Some stress is good and helps people complete tasks. Feeling excited for something or having the feeling of butterflies in your stomach are examples of good stress. For people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), understanding the connection between COPD and stress helps them live a more active, stress-reduced and relaxed life. Here are the facts you need to know about COPD and stress as well as simple tips to keep you healthy and stress-free.
What are the Major Types of Stress?
Two major types of stress are short-term and long-term. Short-term stress or acute stress comes from demands and pressures of the recent past as well as the anticipated demands and pressures of the near future. For example, acute stress can happen because of rushing to meet a deadline, an automobile accident, problems at work or school, trying a new type of exercise and more. Basically, acute stress is short-lived, and typically goes away once the stressful event is over.
Long-term stress or chronic stress occurs when unrelenting demands and pressures never seem to ease or go away. Chronic stress wears people out, causes health issues or worsens existing health conditions. Many people living with chronic health conditions, such as COPD, emphysema and other chronic lung diseases, experience chronic stress.
What is the Connection Between COPD and Stress?
People who have COPD often notice a connection between stress and COPD. In fact, people with COPD tend to experience increased anxiety and depression as their condition progresses. COPD symptoms, such as shortness of breath and coughing can cause anxiety as well.
COPD also makes it difficult for people to do simple, daily tasks. Feeling unable to walk to the mailbox, do the laundry or cook a meal can increase feelings of depression. Stress can weaken the immune system. This makes people with COPD more susceptible to catching respiratory illnesses and more vulnerable to having a COPD flare-up.
The first step to managing COPD and stress is identifying your triggers and understanding how your triggers affect your COPD. For many people, their COPD symptoms trigger a stress response. However, there are ways to manage COPD and stress.
Make Relaxation and Stress Relief Part of Your Routine
- Have a massage. Relaxation massage or gentle forms of massage relieve stress, reduce pain and decrease anxiety. Some people also experience better mobility. Talk with your doctor about what types of massage would work best for you, and ask for a massage therapist recommendation.
- Settle down with quiet time. Allow yourself time to meditate, sit quietly or write in a journal every day. The constant stress of life with COPD can become overwhelming and frustrating. Setting aside time for reflection and quietness can help ease anxiety and reduce stress. As you’re sitting quietly, repeat phrases such as “I feel peace” or “I am safe.”
- Enjoy some sleep. Many people with COPD have trouble with fatigue. One way to battle fatigue is to get plenty of sleep at night and enough rest during the day. Balance your activities with rest, and make sure to establish a sleep routine. For example, avoid caffeine in the evening and napping during the day. Leave work, laptops, tablets and cell phones out of bed. Sleep in a cool, dark and quiet space.
- Organize your time and plan ahead. If you know that cooking dinner triggers stress, try planning ahead. Pick a day to plan what meals you would like to have. Then, the day before you are supposed to cook, do your food prep. This means chopping vegetables and fruits, as well as making any sauces and placing them in the fridge. On the day of your meal, everything will be ready to go.
Quick Remedies for Stressful Situations
Sometimes COPD and stress can sneak up on you and cause sudden anxiety. If you’re having a really tough day and the relaxation tips you’ve tried haven’t helped, give these quick remedies a try:
- Think of at least one good thing that has happened that day. It could be as simple as making the bed, calling a friend or reading a book. Anything that makes you feel happy, even if only for a few minutes, is worth celebrating.
- Laugh a little or a lot. A stress hormone, cortisol, lowers while a mood enhancing hormone called endorphins increase when you laugh. Laughter helps relieve tension effectively. Call a friend that makes you smile, read a funny book or watch a silly TV show.
- Take gentle, deep breaths. This may sound really challenging, but when you practice taking gentle, deep breaths, you help yourself relax. You also help your lungs work more effectively. For the belly breathing technique, try sitting and placing a hand on your chest. Put the other hand on your belly, and inhale slowly through your nostrils. Focus on feeling your belly rise. Then, exhale slowly and repeat.
Along with these COPD and stress relaxation tips, it’s important to follow the guidance of your doctor. You and your doctor will work together to develop the best COPD treatment plan for you. Talk with your doctor about your stress level, anxiety and COPD symptoms. For many people, stem cell therapy has helped them feel better and improved their quality of life. In fact, many people have returned to their favorite activities, which is a great stress reliever. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary fibrosis or another chronic lung disease and would like to learn more about your stem cell treatment options, contact us at (800) 729-3065.
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