a woman holding her head in anxiety

Fighting Anxiety With COPD

It's not an easy fight when you have COPD, and having the added bonus of anxiety makes it feel like a double whammy. In fact, I would go as far as saying it is a double whammy. I definitely started having anxiety before I had COPD.

I smoked to control my anxiety

As a child, I was very high-strung and sort of lived off my nerves. I smoked to control my anxiety. Sometimes I'm unable to tell if it's my COPD playing up or if I'm having an anxiety attack. The symptoms can be the same and anxiety is a great trigger for an exacerbation. I hate the saying “Stay calm, it will pass." Yeah right, try staying calm when you feel like you have an elephant sitting on your chest. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Breathing techniques help

One thing I have learned is that the diaphragmatic breathing techniques for COPD are the same for anxiety and panic attacks. Practicing the breathing techniques helps to control symptoms of both conditions. Sometimes I over-check my sats just to make sure I’m not too low on oxygen when my chest feels heavy and I’m more tired than I usual.

No one said life would be easy

No one said life would be easy, but this double whammy can be tough. You get up feeling pretty good and then wham! It just hits you right out of the blue. You can't even work out where it came from or why. The breathing techniques are great but trying to do them when you’re right in the middle of an anxiety attack is difficult.

You start to feel grounded

Turn on the fan and open the windows (even when its minus outside). Grab your inhaler and try to count slowly ‘1-2-3-4-5’ as you breathe in. No easy feat, but you can do it. Eyes fixed on that one spot on the wall. Slowly you start to feel grounded. It has passed. You start to move around and continue with your day.

It will pass

Sometimes it's a day where the anxiety stays with you all the time. You fidget and lean forward as you can't breathe sitting upright. You watch the clock until it's time for bed where you feel safe and secure as you lay propped up in its comfort. Snuggled up with the duvet, feeling safe as you know you won’t fall. The weight of the duvet makes you feel secure like you’re being held and told everything will be ok and it will pass. As you know, it will pass.

Tomorrow will soon come

Tomorrow will soon come and it will be a new day and a fresh new beginning. Yesterday will be gone, it's out of the way. You wait for that new day to see how you are. Is it going to be different? Will there be that anxiety or exacerbation of your COPD? Or a day where you can get up and function to the best of who you can be? We need to remember we function to the best we can be on good days and also on the bad days. We fight to live the best life we can. We are fighters and warriors and anxiety and COPD do not define us. We rule our lives.


Editor's Note: We are heartbroken to share that Debz passed away in October of 2021. She is deeply missed but her positivity and resilience live on through her articles. Thank you for everything, Debz.

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