7 Ways to Simplify Your Life When You Have a Lung Condition
I don’t know about you all, but life has me running in a million different directions. There is constantly something for me to be doing and when I get behind, I feel completely stressed and overwhelmed. I recognized this the other weekend when I actually was able to go out to do something fun and wasn’t able to get to my duties in the home. I instantly regretted taking the time out to enjoy myself. Now, how unhealthy does that sound? I realized in that moment that I really need to simplify my life. I think we all have been known to “beat ourselves up” from time to time and I think it gets more complicated when you are managing a chronic condition such as a lung diagnosis. The “should-a, would-a, could-a’s” can bring anyone down and it is time we take care of our hearts and minds and simplify our lives. Let me tell you how you can do it!
Forgive yourself. It is just a fact that people with lung conditions just don’t feel the same from day to day. Whether it be weather changes or other triggers, it is hard to rely on breathing well. If you run a few minutes late to an appointment, walk slower than the group, or have to cancel plans with friends… forgive yourself. Forgive yourself if you just can’t make dinner tonight, the laundry doesn’t get done, or you run out of toilet paper (come on, we have all been there). Forgiving yourself and moving forward is a cornerstone to surviving a chronic lung condition.
Stop wearing things that make you uncomfortable (especially breathless). The person out there that said that skinny jeans would be the new fashion craze obviously isn’t a friend of mine. I know we all want to look our best from time to time but we can’t put ourselves in a situation where our clothing is making us uncomfortable and/or breathless. Wearing anything above the hips that is too restricting can easily impact your breathing. Many of my male patients have gone from using a belt to using suspenders. That way they can keep their pants up without cinching the belt too tight. Also, thankfully athleticwear is all the rage lately and wearing comfortable stretchy “athleisure” clothing can be a good alternative to jeans and trousers with their elastic waistbands. Women, many of you are terribly uncomfortable and restricted by tight bra straps. Try using a more comfortable stretchy sports bra or a supportive camisole top with a built-in bralette. Never wear any clothing that is heavy on your shoulders as many people with lung conditions use their shoulder muscles as accessory muscles to breathe.
Schedule time to rest every single day. Many people with lung conditions run out of “steam” by early to late afternoon. You need the rest in order to give you the energy to finish your day as strong as you can. Now, I am not saying that you absolutely need to sleep but laying down and shutting off all stimuli (put that phone down) and resting your mind and body for 45 minutes to an hour is a perfect recipe for a recharge. Having the rest you need will give you more fuel in your tank to prepare dinner, take the kids to practice, or just hang out with your spouse or partner in the evening.
Ask for help. I can admit. I am terribly guilty of thinking that I can do it all, yet I get overwhelmed thinking of all I need to do. (Can I get an “Amen”?) We all want to be independent and there is a sense of accomplishment when we can do things ourselves, but when you have a chronic lung condition asking for help may be a safer alternative to completing some tasks. If your finances will allow, hire someone to do arduous mundane tasks like cutting your grass. Many times, family and friends just want to be informed if you need help with cleaning the house, running errands, or organization. No one wants to overstep by offering help in these areas. Your family and friends are waiting to hear from you when the time is right for them to help out. It’s never too late to ask.
Slow down. One of my favorite patients that I see each week in pulmonary rehab reminds me of the importance to slow down. When she arrives at rehab, she doesn’t jump into action. She takes her time to rest, then takes the time to say “hello” to her rehab pals, and then takes her time throughout her exercise to be intentional with reaching her goals and resting when she needs a break. I notice in many of my patients that they just want to hurry up and get the task at hand done before their breathlessness catches up with them. However, it is the hurrying that is bringing shortness of breath on sooner than they expected. Pacing is key. Taking your time to accomplish tasks from carrying in the groceries, walking from a parking lot into a restaurant, or exercising will allow you to breathe more comfortably and will reduce the level of stress and anxiety that you may have associated with your breathlessness. I also want you to “slow down” and take in all the good that life has to offer. Stop and smell the roses, greet people who walk past you, and be focused in your conversations with others. Life can pass us in the blink of an eye… soak it up.
Prioritize. I am famous for getting distracted during my day doing random tasks that by evening I feel like nothing that I planned to do has gotten done. Procrastination can come in all sorts of forms. It leaves you feeling if not defeated, stressed that your time is limited. I would recommend that each night you think about one thing that you would like to accomplish the next day. Prioritize that task first and then if there is time (and let’s be honest… energy) for more, you can consider it a bonus.
Think Positively. Don’t let your thoughts defeat you before you ever begin. Practicing thinking positively will increase your confidence that you can face any obstacle with strength and resilience. Surround yourself with people who also look at life’s challenges with positivity. Connect with those that you love routinely by texting, emailing, and/or phone calls. This establishes a network of support for you amongst your friends and loved ones. Write lists of gratitude, read uplifting books, and watch feel-good movies and television shows. You may be surprised how a change in attitude may positively impact your health.
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If you enjoyed this blog, I invite you to check out some of the topics I have covered in the past
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