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man out of breath

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.

Let me set a scene that has happened to me often:

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.

Let me now set another event:

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.

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.

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • jcgivan
    2 years ago

    How do you deal with the tree pollen? I’m end-stage, but walk my dog 4 times a day & the pollen is totally messing with me this past week. Well, plus it’s been warmer than usual

  • Derek Cummings author
    2 years ago

    I wish there was a short quick answer to your question jc. I have had the same problem this last few weeks. Tree pollen. Mostly birch causing me huge problems. I was out two days ago on my scooter, and found a nice path to ride through a forest. What a mistake. I paid with extreme breathlessness due to the tree pollen resulting in using my fast inhaler a lot. A mask might help. But i hate wearing them. The good news is that the tree pollen season should soon be over. Many thanks for your comment.

  • patt1013
    2 years ago

    I feel like this was written for me because it is my biggest problem. I have always had such a demanding life and still do and that makes it hard to slow down. To often my breathing depends on how my day starts out. If my 11 year old is wanting to play around or not get up rather then getting dressed and off to school on time I automatically think of how to many times tardy reflects on me as a caregiver, the stress begins and I can barely breath. I will start out extra early for an appointment and something will happen and there I am again rushing and breathless. Knowing my problem and not knowing how to correct it is a stress in itself. It is for sure a Mindset.

  • Derek Cummings author
    2 years ago

    I am pleased you have found my article helpful Patt. It really can be hard work to train ourselves to slow down and not try to rush. I still do it. After all this time and pay the price. I myself am getting much better now as I tend to almost always be ready half an hour early. Breathe easy and very many thanks for your comments. x

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