a woman is overwhelmed with COPD and inner thoughts meanwhile outside is peaceful nature

Feeling Overwhelmed (Part 2)

Editor's note: This is part 2 of a series. Be sure to read part 1!

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed a few issues that cause me to feel overwhelmed or anxious, along with some solutions that work for me. Learning to stay calm in the present moment and not worrying keeps me from getting fewer anxiety attacks and breathing better.

It is impossible to go through life without problems, or even feeling anxious about an upcoming event, a doctor’s visit, or getting tasks accomplished in a timely manner. It is a part of life, for the healthy as well as people with a chronic illness. Here are some issues that cause me to feel overwhelmed.

Questioning my symptoms

When my COPD symptoms are a little more severe, I get extremely anxious. I immediately start wondering if I am having an exacerbation, if I need medication, and what is causing it. If I don’t calm myself down, my imagination goes into overdrive and my breathing really suffers.

Many times it is a simple answer. If I have not slacked off writing in my tracker and journal, I can usually find the answer there. I keep track of the weather, humidity, and air quality. Many times that is the answer and I haven’t realized it. I see on my calendar I have a social event coming up I am a little worried about. My diet has been off and I have been eating too many foods that bother me. It might be I need to just sit and calm myself with breathing exercises or meditation.

Pacing myself

I always get in trouble with this one. I still make to-do lists like I have the energy of a twenty-year-old, not sixty-six on oxygen! Some mornings when I wake up, I lay in bed going through a list of tasks in my head. The sun is shining through the window, I feel good and want to accomplish so much. My lungs think otherwise by the middle of the afternoon.

The answer is not to beat myself up over it. I got a few things accomplished. Be happy with it! The remainder will be there waiting for me tomorrow. This problem isn’t just COPD-related. Most of us are getting older. At sixty-six, my body doesn’t move as fast as it used to and it is a natural part of life to be accepted. I have found I do better with a weekly list by priority versus a daily list. As long as the important chores get checked off, I have a sense of accomplishment.

Thinking too much

This will get us all in trouble. I am so guilty of this and if I don’t stop it, I will eventually start having panic attacks that really take my breath away. I think it is more dwelling on issues versus thinking too much. If something is in the past, there is no reason to keep playing it over in my head. It is over with. Trying to stay in the present moment, not thinking ahead or back is difficult but can stop me from feeling overwhelmed with life’s events.

The conversations we have with ourselves can be the most damaging. I analyze everything, not just once but many times over. The best way for me to handle this is to either meditate, exercise, or get out into nature if I can, even if it is my own back porch or yard. Changing the scenery with something I find relaxing and comforting clears my mind. Reading a book will also keep my mind engaged.

Do you have ways to avoid being overwhelmed? Do you like nature or reading? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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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