Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an umbrella term that is used to describe a wide range of progressive lung diseases, such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, asthma, and some forms of bronchiectasis. It is characterized by increasing breathlessness as pulmonary diseases affect the air sacs or the bronchial tubes and obstruct the inward and outward flow of air.1
How Are Stress And COPD Linked?
Though everyone experiences stress every once in a while, stress caused by COPD is quite different and far more serious. Since each individual’s brain is capable of detecting any breathing issues, not getting enough air at any point in time can send your body into a panic mode. And since people living with COPD are constantly struggling to get enough air, they constantly end up being stressed and anxious.
How COPD Affects The Mental Health Of People
COPD not only affects the body but messes with the mind too. According to a study, it was found that people with COPD were twice as likely to develop depression and 85 percent more likely to develop anxiety than their counterparts without COPD.2 Researchers are still trying to figure out the exact association between COPD and these mental health issues. They have hypothesized that being diagnosed with COPD alone could be a trigger for depression and anxiety.
Being short of breath can magnify normal stress and can result in panic attacks. So if you suffer from COPD, you should not only be treated for your physical issues but should be screened for mental health issues too. Depression and anxiety are treatable. You should be open with your doctor about what you are going through so that they can guide you in the right direction.
How To Manage Stress Associated With COPD
When stress becomes a part of your daily life when you are living with COPD, it becomes even more important to try to manage it. Once you manage to get your stress under control, you will be able to live a much more fulfilling life. Here are some tips to help you cope with stress.
- Identify Your Stressors: The first thing you should do before you try to control your stress is to identify all your daily stressors. Make a list of all these stressors and arrange them in order of most stressful to least stressful. This will help you figure out which ones you can reduce or remove completely from your life.
- Try Breathing Exercises: Taking deep breaths helps relax your mind and body. It can also give you some sense of control over your condition. If you feel you need some help with it, you can always participate in a pulmonary rehabilitation program. Such programs teach you exercises that will help ease depression and anxiety.
- Get Enough Sleep: Your body tends to get stressed when you are sleep deprived, which will end up making your condition worse. Though sleeping well can be a problem for those with COPD, you can try developing good sleep habits by going to bed at the same time each night, keeping your bedroom dark, and avoiding drinking alcohol or exercising late in the evening.
- Get Some Exercise: Getting some exercise is beneficial for those with COPD as it will not only reduce stress but will also give your lungs a workout. Just consult your doctor regarding the forms of exercises suitable for you so that you don’t strain yourself.
- Have A Nutritious Diet: If you eat unhealthy foods, your body will have to work extra hard to keep you healthy. This will end up adding to your stress. A diet rich in nutrients will help your body function efficiently and will help you feel much calmer.
- Let It Out: Bottling your feeling up will lead to stress getting the better of you. So make it a point to talk openly to your doctor about what you are going through. They may be able to suggest a counselor who might be able to help you with emotional issues. Also, let your friends and family know about your condition and how it affects you mentally so that they can support you in your time of need.
|↑1||Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). National Health Service.|
|↑2||Yohannes, Abebaw M., and George S. Alexopoulos. “Depression and anxiety in patients with COPD.” European Respiratory Review 23, no. 133. 2014.|