Anxiety is your body's natural response to stress. It's a feeling of fear or apprehension about what's to come.1 They forgot to include your brain adding different stress-causing situations that may or may not be related to this episode.
Sinking in anxiety
As my COPD progressed and I was more and more limited of what I could do, these feelings from "stress-causing" episodes came more easily. It would always start as a nervous feeling about something small and then the sinking started. Like I was stuck in "quicksand" and the more I struggled for control, the deeper and deeper I would sink.
Then my mind would recall memories or unresolved conflicts to add to the flurry rattling around in my head. Each new brick would add to the weight of the original feeling and sink me even further. As time passes you wonder how a person goes from whether I can get a good parking spot at the dentist to I'm a terrible father to my children!
Then one day I was going into my clinic for some exercise and classes on learning to live with COPD and the dam that was holding back the water since I got out of bed...burst! The moment my physical therapist came to meet me, I broke down in tears. Sobbing when you're on supplemental oxygen is not great as your nose plugs up and around we go again!
Gentle and kind
They were so gentle and kind and helped me through my meltdown. The gentleman that helped me calm down gave me a card I still carry to this day. He taught me the "STOPP" method as something I could take with me until I could see my doctor.
Here is what he taught me:
- S: Stop!
- T: Take a breath.
- O: Observe what I am thinking, reacting to, and feeling in my body.
- P: Pull back. How might someone else this this? Is this fact or opinion?
- P: Practice what works. What is the best thing for me in this situation?
Do you have go-to tips for addressing anxiety?
My action plan
The moment I feel that nervous cloud above me, I "STOPP", take a breath, pursed-lip breathe, and use my oximeter. I pull back and see what I'm doing that day (the bigger picture) and why I would be feeling anxious. I narrow my focus so my brain doesn't start loading bricks into the situation.
I then practice what works for me. Usually, I focus on the list I wrote the night before so the tasks are all familiar to me. This distracts my brain from going off course and ending up in the anxiety quicksand.
What works best for you
Everyone should seek guidance from their medical practitioner and medical team as everyone is unique and there certainly is not a one size fits all approach. As your toolbox grows and you stack these small victories together, you will find what works best for you. Anxiety never goes away completely but at least I feel much better knowing that I have given myself a chance at self-rescue from anxiety quicksand.
"Breathe Free, my Friends"
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How has your experience been navigating the healthcare system as someone with COPD?