The Mindset, Pacing, and Breathlessness.
COPD effects each of us differently. But the one thing we all have in common is breathlessness which at times can - for us in the more advanced stages - be severe. Often no two days are the same as with no clear reason we can suddenly find we are having a wonderful day with breathing easier than normal. While sometimes we can struggle to rise out of bed, and be more breathless than usual. Even coping from hour to hour can invite different challenges.
Recognizing when to slow down
You have planned your day and are soon leaving home for an appointment to meet a friend. Glancing at your watch you notice you are five minutes late - so you start to hurry. Enter mindset. A shriek that for many commands almost instant breathlessness. It does not matter if you use oxygen or not. The result is the same. Mindset has set off a chain reaction. A mini stress event, and is enough to make you later as you then have to recover from this sudden bout of breathlessness.
Stress however caused will in most of us set up a reaction that will lead to being more breathless than usual.
The consuming feeling of breathlessness
You are at a mall with a friend. You try to keep up with your friend, and as you walk around looking into the various stores, your friend is going a little faster than you would like. You have not asked your friend to make allowances for your COPD, and to slow down a little. You feel all is good. You reason you may get a little more breathless, and tired. But your mind, that inner voice, says it's ok.
The problem is trying to keep pace with your friend makes for breathlessness, and stress. It is not long before you start to become extremely breathless. Causing you to seek a seat to recover. This makes you more stressed so you remain breathless for longer. Has that happened to you?
Like many of you guys I have episodes of extreme breathlessness. The kind of being out of breath when I can do little but stay calm, try to relax, and take slow breaths. I also use my fast reaction inhaler to help my breathing, and heart rate return to normal. In many cases that inner voice from within, my mindset, has urged me to move faster than in reality it is wise to do.
The good, or the bad news, is we have to live life in the slow lane, and to pace ourselves.
Pace yourself and explain your limitations
We also have to explain to friends our limitations. Don't worry. If a friend is a good one, that friend will make allowances for you. I use a mobility scooter nowadays, but if you are walking, take your time. Let everyone else pass you. What does it matter. While doing this note where seats or benches are. You might like to take a break. Or need one of those to gain breath back another day. If you have an appointment do as I do. Start to get ready half an hour early. What does it matter. As long you stay in your comfort zone. You must always be kind to yourself.
You will soon learn once you start to plan and prepare for an event earlier, to pace yourself well, to warn friends you are slow. That you are less breathless - that life is easier and kinder. It will take time to teach yourself to get in the slow lane. Don't beat yourself up if you forget the slow lane, and try to race a little at times. To then pay the price of being more breathless. After all, you are changing a habit of a lifetime. Make sure to always have your fast rescue inhaler with you – and of course your cell phone if you need to call for help.
Remember special times when you are liable to be much more breathless. The tree pollen season this year has hit me hard and fast. Making for some very challenging times.
But knowing why, and how best to deal with my breathless episodes has helped stress levels.
Identifying my pace helped with stress
To help early breathlessness on rising make sure to have your inhalers beside your bedside so when you wake in the morning you can swing your legs over the bed and start the day with your medication. Try never to miss taking your inhalers, and if you use your medication twice a day to space 12 hours apart.
Forward planning. Remembering we cannot do what we once could. Taking our time and living in the slow lane. Being fast to accept a helping hand from a friend. All lead to a better breathing life for us.
Till I write again. Stay positive and most of all - Breathe easy.
Do you have a COPD exacerbation tool kit?