Many people accept anxiety as an inevitable part of life. Whether we’re stressing over a job interview, cramming for an exam we have the next day, or we’ve found ourselves in a difficult financial situation, stressors are all around us. Oftentimes, a simple lifestyle change is enough to eliminate these stressors and experience peace of mind again. However, what happens when this stressor is an incurable disease like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)?
According to the American Lung Association, COPD is the third leading cause of death by disease in the United States. And while death rates due to COPD have been steadily declining since the 90s, it remains one of the biggest health concerns in the country. While we can [and should] take steps to reduce COPD rates in the future, it’s easy to lose focus on what matters most — the here and now.
If you or a loved one has COPD, rest assured that you’re not alone. Millions of people around the world are diagnosed with the disease every year, and many of them are able to significantly reduce worry or fear caused by their condition. Let’s take a look at a few actionable tips for reducing COPD-related anxiety.
Reevaluate Your Goals
Goal setting is not something that’s exclusive to young people, the able-bodied, or the wealthy; it should be embraced by everyone, including those with COPD. And if you want to set meaningful goals, you need to ask yourself what matters most to you. Maybe you’re passionate about the visual arts, fitness, or teaching. You may be convinced that your symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and lightheadedness may prevent you from pursuing these passions, but they can actually empower you and afford you the opportunity to view them in a new light.
Start by reframing the way you feel about your lung condition and creating realistic and manageable goals to accomplish. If that means starting with baby steps, so be it! Many mental health professionals would argue that the best way to feel purpose in life is to always be making progress at something; it doesn’t matter how big or small that something is. And when you feel a sense of purpose and fulfillment from progress, you’ll be less likely to experience anxiety.
Embrace The Community
There are a host of amazing and supportive communities out there that support people with chronic lung conditions. For example, COPD 360 is a very active online community run by the COPD Foundation that helps people with all types of issues related to lung disease. It’s also a great place for you to provide your own input that could help other people in the community.
According to Psychology Today, when you’re able to express openly how you’re feeling, you’re more likely to solve problems in your life. Conversely, when you withdraw and internalize your emotions, you’re more likely to experience anxiety. Even if you don’t wish to fully open up to someone right away, sometimes a simple “hello” is enough to get you started down the right path.
Consider Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you become more aware of negative or inaccurate thinking methods in order to better respond to the circumstances in your life. CBT is often used as an alternative to antidepressant medication which can have negative side-effects like nausea, fatigue, and drowsiness.
A study published in the European Respiratory Journal concluded that CBT done by a professional is not only more effective than other means of reducing anxiety, it can actually be less costly. The great thing about CBT is that it doesn’t take a whole lot of time out of your day. Most specialists recommend one or two sessions a week with a mental health professional, each lasting no more than an hour.
Follow Your Treatment Plan
One of the easiest ways to reduce COPD-induced anxiety is to simply follow the treatment plan you put together with your doctor. COPD treatment includes things like oxygen therapy, pulmonary rehabilitation, diet changes, and breathing exercises, all of which will reduce symptoms of breathlessness, fatigue, and lightheadedness. If you stray from these things, you’ll be more likely to experience exacerbations that can lead to panic attacks and in turn, anxiety.
While COPD and other respiratory diseases are one of the biggest health concerns in the country, the good news is that symptoms can be significantly reduced. By following the above tips and maintaining open lines of communication with a doctor, loved ones, and the COPD community, living a fulfilling and rewarding life is very attainable and anxiety will become a thing of the past.
About The Author
Daniel Seter is a content creator for LPT Medical. With his work, he aims to raise awareness for chronic lung disease while providing informational resources to those coping with them.
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