When we talk about stress, we’re usually talking about psychological stress. Everyone feels stressed at times. But there’s a difference between short-term acute stress, and long-term chronic stress. Acute stress can be useful, by preparing us for “fight-or-flight” in the face of a threat. Certain hormones are released, which prime the body for explosive action. The body returns to normal after the threat is gone.
Many people, however, feel stress on a more continuous basis. This chronic stress can affect the body in negative ways. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, for example. People who are stressed often feel anxious, irritable, or depressed. Chronic stress may also cause more frequent flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) symptoms. For this reason, it’s important to learn how to manage stress.
Stress management is about the way you react to stressors, the events or situations that cause stress in your life. The first step towards managing stress is to recognize your stressors. Living with COPD can be stressful, because it forces you to make changes in your life. Other things that may cause stress include changes in:
the ability to perform ordinary tasks
Having COPD or any chronic disease can be emotionally stressful, stirring up worries about your long-term future and that of your family. It’s common to feel depressed, upset, and overwhelmed at times. These feelings can make your COPD symptoms worse. Feeling stressed can aggravate your shortness of breath, which in turn can make you feel more anxious.
These changes would be stressful even for the healthiest person. Unfortunately for people with COPD, stress can trigger a flare-up, so it’s important to learn to recognize the things that may cause stress in your life. By doing so you can take steps to reduce these stressors or change your reactions to them. Talk about your challenges and concerns with people who are close to you. Ask for help when possible, and avoid situations that are likely to cause stress.