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Strength and Empowerment with COPD

By DuPage Medical Group Pulmonary Medicine

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a group of diseases that progressively makes breathing difficult. The most common symptoms can include shortness of breath, wheezing and excessive mucus production. COPD is incurable, which sounds incredibly scary; however, it can be managed with the help of medication, abstaining from cigarette smoke, possible oxygen use and leading a healthy, happy life style of diet and exercise.

We understand receiving a COPD diagnosis can be stressful, and while everyone copes differently, the emotions experienced with a diagnosis are often similar among patients. A few of the most common initial and lingering emotions include panic, depression and anxiety.

Depression is prevalent among 40 percent of patients and anxiety is reported in 33 percent of COPD patients. It can be a vicious cycle – COPD disease progression leads to less movement, which leads to shortness of breath, this can spark fear/anxiety, therefore, worsening your shortness of breath. It is frightening to lose your breath and the ability to do things that you were once able to do. Do not feel ashamed or discouraged, you are not alone.

There are several ways to help combat the negative emotions that may accompany COPD. 

  • You can let your doctor know exactly how you feel. Whether it is too little or too much sleep, eating difficulties, fatigue, excessive worry and any feeling of self-harm, being honest with your doctor. It is often the first and most powerful step to being both mentally and physically stronger.
  • Group involvement of any kind.  Whether it’s family or friends, this will help encourage coping strategies. Surrounding yourself with supportive people will remind you that you’re not alone in this journey.
  • Participate in pulmonary rehabilitation. This includes skilled nurses and respiratory therapists tailoring an individual treatment plan of exercise, education and behavioral modifications. Designed to improve physical and psychological wellbeing, they are often held in a group setting with other patients who work together in improving health, fitness and their education on COPD.
  • Educate yourself. Education is a big component in feeling more confident with your diagnosis. Research and speaking with your doctor are important, but pulmonary rehabilitation is also extremely helpful in the learning process. Understanding the disease, inhaler use and breathing techniques are necessary for physical and mental well-being.
    • *Breathing techniques include purse lip breathing, which helps ease shortness of breath and acts as a relaxing tool. Try purse lip breathing by breathing in through your nose and purse your lips (like blowing out birthday candles), while exhaling through your mouth. The key is to have the exhale be longer than the inhale. Practicing this technique in the comfort of your home, and whenever you feel short of breath, will help your breathing.
  • Stay active. While your COPD diagnosis may limit your physical activity from what it used to be, it should not stop you from staying active. Not only will this improve your condition and health, but exercise can help improve emotions of depression and anxiety.

The tools and support are available for regaining your physical and mental strength. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have already started the journey to manage your disease, it is never too late to start empowering yourself. 

To learn more about our Pulmonary Medicine services and physicians, visit dupagemedicalgroup.com/pulmonary-medicine.

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Pulmonary Medicine
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