5 Tips for Conserving Energy with COPD
When you have COPD, it's important to conserve your energy reserves, so that you don't run out before day's end. Because your lungs don't work as efficiently or effectively as they should, your body and its cells often don't get enough oxygen. And without oxygen, energy runs out quickly.
So, it is crucial to manage your energy carefully. Save your energy for the things in life that are most important to you. The tips below may help you conserve your energy so that you can get through each day successfully.
Balance activity & rest
The answer is definitely not to stop all activity in favor of constant rest. You want to keep moving and stay as active as you can. Just work to balance your activity and rest periods fairly equally.
Plan for periods of rest, especially if you need to be more active than usual, such as when you must leave your home for doctor's visits or to run errands. Most people with COPD will benefit from at least one quality rest period each day.
If you become fatigued during activity, stop and rest. Don't wait until you are exhausted. Pace yourself and break activities into easy steps that you can rest between. You may even need to finish the activity on another day or later in the day. That's OK. Listen to your body and know your limits. A period of rest before strenuous activity can also help.
Getting a good night's sleep will also help you have energy the following day. Avoid taking so many naps during the day that you have trouble sleeping at night. If you have trouble breathing at night, elevating the head of your bed may help. Supplemental oxygen may also help, so talk to your doctor about this if needed.
Simplify your daily tasks
When COPD starts to impact your life and your energy, you may need to find new ways of doing everyday tasks. You may need to break from your tried and true routines. For example:
- Sit down to shower, to do your hair, to apply makeup
- Arrange everything you need for a task within easy reach, so it's not necessary to climb or reach (a long-handled reacher can also be helpful)
- Use a terrycloth robe after a shower or bath to avoid the need to towel dry your body
- Soak dishes instead of scrubbing and let your washed dishes air dry
- Use a clothes dryer instead of hanging your clothes outside to dry
- Drag or slide objects rather than lifting, especially if they weigh more than 10 pounds
- When dressing, arrange all your clothes first, then dress your lower half first (while sitting)
As I mentioned under balancing activity and rest, planning with care can help you get through the day and have the energy to do the things that are most important to you.
- Eating, believe it or not, can require a lot of energy. Eating may also trigger shortness of breath and coughing, which have a direct impact on energy. So don't plan to be active for at least 20 or 30 minutes after a meal. Give yourself time to recover.
- If you want to take part in a social engagement, plan to skip some of your daily activities if you can, so that you don't use up all your energy before the fun starts.
- Scatter your household tasks throughout the week, if you're still doing them. Perhaps one day you'll dust the living room and another day you'll do laundry.
- If you are still preparing meals, make double portions, so that you won't have to do a lot of meal prep later in the week.
Learn to delegate & ask for help
It's great to stay as independent as you can, but sooner or later, you may need to ask for help with some of your household responsibilities or even your activities of daily living. There is no shame in asking for help.
Chances are, you will have family and/or friends who want to help. Let them. If they don't offer, ask for help. Delegate the most energy-sapping tasks to those who want to support you. You might even consider paying for help. For example, laundry, food shopping, and lawn care are tasks that may become too much for you at some point.
Maintain your posture & breathe easy
You might be surprised how much of a difference proper posture can make. Whether you're sitting or standing, try to remain as erect as you can. This allows the lungs to expand more fully and that helps you get more oxygen into your body.
Learn how to control your breathing as well, especially when active. Be sure to take full, slow breaths in and out, avoiding panting. Practice pursed lip breathing to control your exhales. To do this, inhale through your nose and then pucker your lips as though blowing out a candle and breathe out slowly and under control.
You don't have to just "give in" to COPD and give up being active because you lack energy. There are proactive steps you can take each hour, day and week to manage your energy so that you maintain a positive quality of life for yourself.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?