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COPD: Ease Anxiety About Shortness of Breath

Huffing and puffing when you climb stairs or waking in the middle of the night feeling breathless is no fun. It can make you feel anxious and panicky. When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you will feel short of breath at times. The medical term for this is dyspnea. Here are some ways you can control your breathing and stay calm.

Why it happens

In COPD, the airways of the lungs are partly clogged and narrow and/or the air sacs of the lungs are damaged. Stale air can get trapped in the lungs, making it harder for new air to come in. When this happens, you need to take steps to get the old air out.

What can I do?

When you feel short of breath, try not to feel anxious. That can make you breathe faster or gasp for air. Instead, do this breathing technique, called pursed-lip breathing:

  • Relax and breathe in through your mouth or nose for a count of two.

  • Pucker or purse your lips together as if you are going to whistle. Exhale through your pursed lips for a count of four.

  • Repeat until you no longer feel short of breath. 

Practice pursed-lip breathing several times a day so that you become comfortable with it.

If you wake up in the night feeling breathless, do pursed-lip breathing while sitting on the edge of your bed with your feet on the floor. You can also do it during housework, when you climb stairs, or at any other time you feel short of breath.

Get by day to day

Don’t be embarrassed to tell those around you that you are feeling short of breath. Informing your family members or friends may help you feel less anxious. When you are confident and relaxed, it’s easier to get your breath back to normal.

Shortness of breath can be hard to live with. By taking these steps, you will be able to breathe easier and feel more comfortable.

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