We are navigating challenging times, very few people find it easy to stay calm with so much uncertainty, unpredictability and fear. For those with a chronic health condition such as asthma or COPD (Chronic obstruction pulmonary disease) the fear is amplified as they hear about the impact Covid-19 has on our ability to breathe. It would come as no surprise to know that respiratory distress can be triggered by heightened stress. Stress and anxiety can also lead to a respiratory attack, so it is worth thinking about how to look after yourself in a preventative way with a view to preventing anxiety becoming a trigger for you.
Respiratory conditions come in many forms from the more common such as Asthma, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Chronic Bronchitis, Bronchiectasis, Pneumonia, Lung Cancer and Tuberculosis, to the less known such as Pulmonary Edema, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Pneumoconiosis, Interstitial Lung Disease and Mesothelioma to name just a few, the one thing all these have in common is, they affect the respiratory system and how you breathe.
Your symptoms might be flaring up, especially as we have to stay indoors and many of our respiratory community feel vulnerable around the impacts of possibly contracting COVID 19. Worrying about whether to get a vaccine, worrying about where to get a vaccine, worrying about passing near to someone in the supermarket who may have COVID 19, feeling vulnerable or alone, all of these thoughts and concerns can cause high levels of stress. Even more so as the media are often only focusing on the negative. It can be very hard to get even a little respite from what feels like a constant stream of bad news. Stressors might also increase as we again work from home often coping with online learning for children, school being disrupted for a child, living in lockdown alone or family stress heightened because we are now spending a significant amount of time with each other possibly more than we have ever learned how to do in the past. Whilst some can cope with that really well, it can also present challenges for others. These moments are significant for us all, so stress can creep up on any of us at any time.
For those with respiratory conditions, strong emotions can trigger symptoms which is something many of us will experience in a time of increased uncertainty.
Varying levels of stress can make inflammation worse, triggering shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, all of which can exacerbate your condition as the body kicks in to fight off the trigger.
A person who experiences stress for prolonged periods may feel more anxious. Anxiety can trigger panic attacks, that can for example, cause an asthma attack.
People may also sometimes find that stress leads to unhealthy behavior, such as eating junk food for comfort, smoking or drinking alcohol which can all lead to worsening of symptoms as we try to comfort ourselves.
Do at least one thing everyday that is JUST FOR YOU! Self-love is important when keeping stress levels lowered. Don’t take on too much and overwhelm yourself but rather go easier on yourself and remember you are the most important person who needs to come first.
Walking away from stressful situations can help keep your emotional state in balance. Know the signs that you are feeling emotional and look for ways to remove yourself, so you have time to calm and think.
We, at Asthma NZ, represent our respiratory community and offer education and advice around living with respiratory conditions. Reach out to us for further information and do not feel you are alone as that is why we exist – is to be there for you all.
Respiratory distress can be scary and life-threatening. If you have sudden trouble breathing and or find that your medication is not effective, seek emergency medical help immediately by dialling 111.
Comments will be approved before showing up.