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Managing Anxiety and COPD
COPD is a disease based in the physical that spreads quickly to the mental. Since people with COPD are prone to developing higher levels of anxiety associated with the diagnosis, you must take active measures to understand, acknowledge, and manage your symptoms.
You do not have to accept worry, stress, agitation, panic, and physical tension as part of your life. Here are the best tips for managing your anxiety:
1. Learn the Symptoms of COPD
When your doctor diagnoses you with a chronic medical condition like COPD, it is your task to become a student of that condition. By accessing information from trustworthy sources, you can learn as much as you can about the symptoms of COPD and what can be done to limit them.
Limited symptoms of COPD will lead to limited symptoms of anxiety. Always discuss your symptoms honestly with your medical team to pinpoint the role of COPD.
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2. Learn the Symptoms of Anxiety
Since there is some symptom overlap between COPD and anxiety, it is valuable to know the differences. As you gain education, focus on the physical symptoms related to tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.
By increasing your ability to differentiate between the symptoms, you will improve your ability to effectively assign your efforts to the presenting issue. There is nothing to be gained from completing interventions geared towards anxiety when the symptoms are stemming from COPD. You only have so much time and energy. Be sure you are working efficiently.
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3. Identify and Avoid Your Triggers
No matter your age, sex or background, you will have some level of anxiety and stress in your life. Where does your stress come from? What triggers your anxiety? Remember, these can be people, places, things, and even thoughts and feelings. If certain things set you off, stay away from them. If they cannot be avoided completely, do your best to limit your interactions with them.
Intentionally and continually putting yourself in situations that spark your stress is never recommended. This process will aid in rebuilding a sense of power and control in your life, which is always helpful.
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4. Modify Your Thoughts
Some triggers cannot be eliminated. Some cannot be limited at all. In these cases, you will have to practice changing your thoughts. The process may sound intimidating, but it is actually quite simple.
It begins by working to understand why that trigger influences your anxiety. What do you say to yourself about these triggers? What do you think about them? What impact do these thoughts have?
From here, you will be in a better position to transition your thoughts to something more positive or realistic. For example, you will feel worse if you think, “COPD is the worst thing ever, and my anxiety is uncontrollable.” If you can transition your thoughts towards something like, “COPD and anxiety are frustrating, but I know that I will be okay,” your feelings will follow your thoughts.
The key here is repetition because your negative thoughts will be spiraling without your awareness.
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5. Stretch Your Comfort Zone
Changing your thoughts is important and so is changing your actions. When anxiety starts to creep into your life, it begins to shrink your comfort zone. Over time, you will find yourself less willing to engage in behaviors and activities that were a source of fun because anxiety convinces you that something bad will happen.
Rather than fight this scenario with your thoughts, fight it with action. By getting out and doing the pleasurable activities that seem uncomfortable, you will stretch your comfort zone, and you will lower anxiety in the meantime. Anxiety’s goal is to get bigger, stronger, and more pervasive. Spending time changing your behaviors will take away its power.
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6. Challenge Your Lungs
With your COPD diagnosis, you may be cautious to exercise. You may fear that this exertion will spike your symptoms, putting you at risk. Always get facts and recommendations from your doctor, but in many cases exercise is not only safe for COPD, it is highly encouraged.
Along the way, having an exercise program will dramatically improve your anxiety. It gives you a chance to examine aspects of your life while releasing helpful chemicals into your brain that are associated with lower anxiety. Exercise can efficiently tackle both issues.
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7. Practice Relaxation
When it comes to anxiety, the best methods of damage control and prevention are relaxation techniques. Before you start, forget everything you know about relaxation. Many people have significant misconceptions about relaxation and believe there is no way breathing or stretching could impact their anxiety. This belief is totally false. People who learn, practice, and perfect relaxation techniques routinely report lower levels of stress and anxiety.
Research appropriate relaxation techniques for you, including deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, autogenics and guided imagery. Since these are so easily modified, there will be an option well-suited for you.
When you are learning relaxations, find periods of calm to practice and hone your skills. Learning relaxations during times of high anxiety is like learning to drive on ice.
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8. Have Fun
Relaxation techniques place more focus on the anxiety to address it directly and remove the unwanted aspects of your life. Having fun serves the opposite purpose, as it increases the positive elements.
What do you do for fun? What did you do for fun before you were diagnosed with COPD? Trying to reengage in these activities can end with good results, but don’t stop there. Finding new and different methods of fun will help build excitement and allow you to push through small amounts of anxiety. Having fun with others is natural, but finding ways to experience fun alone will be a great skill to learn. There are unlimited ways to have fun. Find yours.
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9. Seek Therapy
If the previous tips do not lead you to the results you seek, try therapy. A mental health professional will be trained to assess your needs and provide effective interventions to accomplish your goals.
You may think that mental health therapy cannot help with your physical health complaints, but this notion could not be less true. There is tremendous carryover from physical to mental, and mental to physical. Mental health therapy with a qualified therapist can improve your overall health and well-being. All it requires is you.
Learn more about the connection between anxiety and COPD over at NewLifeOutlook.