Elder woman with closed eyes sits on lily pad with fireflies lightning bugs surrounding her.

Taking Control of Your Anxiety

One thing that I know for certain is that many of us struggle with anxiety. Even if you don’t have COPD, you may be suffering from anxiety on some level. We don’t all have anxiety about the same things, but we all have a level of anxiety that has similar threads.

Most of us have a fear of death, even though we know it will come one day. People often have fears of being alone, of the neighbor's dog, of not having enough of what they need.

Certain fears come naturally with a diagnosis of COPD. These fears are real and are sometimes serious. But if you do the work, it can be controlled.

Fear of aging

In conjunction with COPD, we are becoming our parents. It is happening before our very eyes.  This aging process has a sadness to it for me because I thought it would take longer to get here.

I thought I would have more time. Aging conjures its own fears with the inevitable losses that it brings to the table. Combining COPD with aging and it makes for a true horror novel.

Falls are frightening

We never become comfortable with not being able to breathe. It is always frightening in the same way that falling down a flight of stairs is frightening.

You can practice falling repeatedly, but you are never going to get used to falling down the stairs. Nor will you ever know exactly how it will turn out. Some falls are easy, and others seem like you are never going to reach the end of the stairs.

Learning how to react

The first few times an episode of shortness of breath happens, your brain learns how to react to it. It is like being a fish out of water that is gasping for oxygen. How you react to each episode of shortness of breath, will dictate what your future anxiety levels will be.

The first step to controlling anxiety is knowing it can be done and wanting to control it. Here is a guide for what to do next:

  1. Find a place to sit or lean against a wall or railing.
  2. If you are in a sitting position, place your hands on your knees, palms up will aid in opening lungs.
  3. Relax your shoulders by dropping them. It may be uncomfortable the first few times you do it.
  4. Breathe in through your nose.
  5. Take a deep breath, but do not let your shoulders move.
  6. Breathe deep enough to make your stomach move. This is abdominal breathing.
  7. Keep your mouth closed and inhale in through your nose.
  8. Close your eyes and maintain your breathing while you focus on a thought. You decide what the thought is. Mine is a day at the park with my grandson.
  9. Concentrate on your thought.
  10. Create a happy story. It doesn't have to be real, or true, or ever really going to happen, but it is your story. Create it as you want it to be.

Taking control

Practice this 3 times a day, every day, and it can help you learn how to manage anxiety when it jumps out at you. How do you handle the anxiety when you have an episode of shortness of breath?

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