How Does Stress Impact The Lungs?

Sometimes it seems that stress is a natural part of life. It’s a safe assumption to make that no one likes stress.

And while most of us try to alleviate stress for the sake of gaining peace of mind, there may be a more pressing reason to tame the stress in our lives. 

Did you know that stress is like poison to your body? Stress is not just a mental state; it can actually have detrimental impact on your body.

For someone who has been diagnosed with chronic lung disease, stress is particularly rough on the lungs because it can exacerbate symptoms like shortness of breath and pressure on the chest.

If you regularly experience stress, take a moment to read through the impact of stress on the physical body and what you can do to combat this negativity.

Two different types of stress

There are 2 different types of stress you need to know about.

  1. Acute Stress
  2. Chronic Stress

Stress is not just a mental state of being; it has an impact on every organ in the body. However, the body is resilient and can often recover from intermittent moments of acute stress, which is an isolated event that is typically in response to fear.

However, when the body experiences chronic stress, which is ongoing or continual stress due to a situation or state of mind, damage to the body can occur.

Acute stress is often a fight-or-flight response to a specific event or situation. It is short-lived and can result in the following temporary symptoms:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Headache
  • Muscle tension such as tightened jaws, stiff neck and tight shoulders
  • Back pain
  • Fast and shallow breathing
  • Excess sweating and sweaty palms
  • Stomach discomfort, nausea and/or diarrhea

Chronic stress is similar to acute stress, but it occurs over a length of time. Often, people who experience chronic stress also experience varying levels of the symptoms listed above on a steady basis.

How does stress impact the lungs?

When a stressful situation occurs that prompts a fight-or-flight response, the lungs of a healthy person will expand rapidly in order to compensate for the rapid heart rate and the 300% increase in blood flow during the event.

However, if you have COPD or another chronic lung condition that inhibits your ability to breathe deeply, your response to stress can actually create a COPD (or other condition) flare up.

When your lungs try to expand as a natural response to stress, they will be limited in the amount of air they can take in due to the chronic inflammation within the walls of the lungs.

This could cause hyperventilation and increased panicking.  

What you can do to reduce stress

There are many ways to reduce stress in your life. Depending on the level of stress you experience, you can try something as simple as taking up new hobbies like gardening, which is proven to reduce stress, or you can talk to a counselor about natural ways to cope with the situations you experience in life.

Finding treatment for your chronic lung disease

Many times, patients who are diagnosed with a chronic lung disease experience chronic stress from the disease itself. Living with COPD and other inflammatory lung conditions forces you to constantly worry about losing your breath or triggering another episode that could send you to the hospital.

One way to reduce that stress is to find a treatment option that targets the core cause of your symptoms — the inflammation in your lungs that makes it hard to breathe.

Always consult with your doctor to find the treatment plan that will work best for you.