a woman is adjusting to new life by taking a break from cooking to rest and breathe

Adapting to COPD

“Give yourself time to catch up. Be gentle with yourself. Listen to your needs. Let yourself adapt to the changes that are right for you.” Melody Beattie (Journey to the Heart)

When I first read the above lines, it was a moment of recognition and realization. Upon reflection, I began to understand I don't really allow myself to catch up. I will take a minute or two to catch my breath between tasks, but is that really the meaning of catching up? We all hear the phrase 'learn to pace yourself', and I think I’m pretty good at that. I have rest places throughout my home to recuperate from shortness of breath. Physically, I feel I have done pretty well adapting to the changes in my life.

Living life my way

Exercising on a regular basis is part of my COPD management and I have completed a pulmonary rehab program twice in six years. I wear my oxygen, both inside my home and outside. I haven’t been so great on the losing weight part, but a few pounds have come off. Looking back over my journals, I can see I have gotten physically stronger over the last few years.

I’ve learned to follow my own path in this journey and not compare my capabilities to others. I would see people talk about riding a bike for a few miles of walking on the beach or trails. I wanted this too and tried. It wasn’t right for me and my COPD. I adapted my physical activities to what fits me, and it worked. Instead of trying too hard, I allowed myself to catch up, to live life my way. When I started doing that, I have been able to do more.

Catching up mentally

Acceptance and being gentle

While I learned to navigate the challenges of COPD physically, it is more difficult mentally. My mind is always five steps ahead of my body. I think about what I want to do, how to accomplish it, a constant whirlwind inside my brain. At the end of the day, I am very frustrated because my body did not keep up with my thoughts. Not only was I was used to having many projects going on at once, but I enjoyed it. Now I can’t. Accepting it took some time. Learning to adapt to this and be gentle with myself is a challenging lesson to learn.


Learning how to let my body catch up took a long time, but the mind is more of a challenge. I begrudgingly accepted I have to put some projects on the back burner. Prioritizing is now my new best friend. Now I base that priority on what provides me with more self-satisfaction versus what no longer serves me but I continue doing out of habit.

Cooking and energy

Cooking is one of those things which I have talked about a few times. I always loved it but realized I am holding onto the past. Complicated recipes or testing out new ones does not provide me with personal satisfaction any longer. I’m figuring out ways to cut back on kitchen time but still eat healthily. Meals are now very basic, simple, but still nutritious. If I no longer have to think about cooking, that time and energy are spent doing something I am more passionate about.

Freeing up space

Freeing up space in my home is another way of adapting to COPD. When I look around at a room I have decluttered of unnecessary items, it gives me a feeling of calm and contentment. Those feelings are very necessary to me to live with COPD. We all know this disease can be draining. Making the necessary changes to stay mentally “caught up” helps me physically as well. The most difficult lesson to learn while navigating living with this disease is how to be gentle with yourself. It is all a learning experience, mostly by trial and error.

How have you adapted physically and mentally to COPD? Do you listen to your needs and do what’s right for you? Do you compare yourself to others with COPD? Talk about it in our forums section by clicking the button below!

Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Carol passed away in February of 2022. Carol's storytelling and advocacy will be deeply missed, but her legacy lives on through her articles and in all the people she inspired.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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