7 Things You Should Never Stop Improving if You Have COPD
Many people assume that the longer they live, the less capable they are of improving various aspects of their lives. For example, some people take for granted that you can’t learn a musical instrument as an adult. These people are often told throughout their lives by their parents or friends that if you want to learn something complex, you have to start when you’re younger. It’s also assumed that you’ll stop progressing very early on in your life.
Fortunately, this is not always the case. While studies have shown that children are able to learn more easily due to an undeveloped prefrontal cortex, this does not mean that adults can’t become well-versed in a particular skill. And more importantly, this doesn’t mean that there is no reason for learning something even if you’re faced with the reality that you will never reach your full potential.
Being diagnosed with COPD is similar to the situation discussed above. Many people diagnosed with COPD are immediately hit with a sense of inferiority. They begin to think that they’re no longer capable of things that they previously were. And for some people, this can even lead to a self-defeating attitude that can be very counterproductive when it comes to your health and happiness. In this post, we’re going to take a look at seven different things that you should never stop pursuing, even after being diagnosed with COPD.
If you’re like most people, your relationships play a key role in your well-being and happiness. Despite how busy your day gets, you probably ensure that you put enough time aside to spend with your family and friends. Studies have shown that, not only do healthy relationships increase our perceived level of happiness, but they also have real clinical effects that can affect us both psychologically and physically. Furthermore, this study states that these relationships may be especially important in treating COPD due to the high levels of anxiety and depression among this demographic.
Family relationships primarily have an effect on the onset and course of depression. In other words, positive interactions with your loved ones may cause depression to develop more slowly and ease some of the burden when you have depression. This study also found that people who are dissatisfied with their marriage are about three times more likely to experience an episode of depression over the course of a year than people who are satisfied with their marriages. Finally, people who experience “perceived criticism” from family members are more likely to experience a release of depressive symptoms.
You’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the only study that confirms these findings. Depression has been studied in many other chronic conditions and relationships consistently rank among the most important determining factors. According to this study of lung cancer patients, people who were married had a greater survival rate than those who were not. It also found that people with the most severe symptoms had smaller social networks and were more likely to experience comorbid conditions like traumatic stress, anxiety, in addition to physical symptoms.
So now that we’ve established that your relationships play an important role in helping you manage COPD, you’re likely wondering how you can actually improve your relationships. Many people believe that they have good relationships already, so there’s no point in worrying about it. However, even if you already have positive relationships, there’s a good chance that you can take steps to improve them.
According to the University of Delaware, the first step in improving relationships with family members is to become a better listener. Rather than being quick to react to what someone is saying, take the time needed to fully understand what they’re saying and focus your attention equally on how they’re feeling as much as what they’re saying. It also helps to eliminate as many distractions as possible such as your cell phone, the TV, or anything else that could take your attention away from the conversation.
Another aspect of building good relationships is to make time for people. In this day and age, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to make time for friends and loved ones because there are so many things to schedule around. This is no different for COPD patients because your day is likely full of pulmonary rehab, doctor’s visits, and you might even work a part-time or full-time job.
Your Hobbies and Pastimes
Hobbies and pastimes may not seem like something you should be focusing your attention on. But the truth is, the older you get and the more COPD symptoms progress, the more important your pastimes become. This is because even as your respiratory symptoms progress, you’ll still be able to improve at hobbies like playing music, card games, puzzles, and more. All of which will keep your mind occupied, improve your mood, and help prevent issues like anxiety and depression.
According to the Lung Institute, hiking, reading, and puzzles are three of the best hobbies you can have as a COPD patient. Hiking is one of the best ways to get out and enjoy the great outdoors without doing anything too strenuous. However, there are several important considerations you should make before going on a hike. Extreme weather, either hot or cold, can exacerbate your COPD symptoms. As such, it’s important to check the weather beforehand and make sure it’s comfortable enough for a hike. Read through this post to learn about preventing heat-related COPD symptoms. Another factor you should consider is outdoor air quality. Visit AirNow.gov and type in your ZIP code or city to check the air quality in your area.
Reading is the second hobby that the Lung Institute recommends. Reading is unlike any other hobby in that it allows you to learn about any topic you want without ever leaving the comfort of your living room. Whether you’re into historical books, fantasy, or educational books, there is something out there for everyone. What’s more, reading content is more accessible than it ever has been before. You can read books directly off your phone, computer, or tablet, order them online which is far more affordable than you might expect.
If reading isn’t exactly your thing, there are always puzzles or games. Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to occupy your time and they can even be used as a socializing tool or teambuilding exercise if you want to spend more time with friends and family. If you’d like to expand your vocabulary, crossword puzzles might be something to consider. Or if interested in working with numbers, give Sudoku a try. You can either print them off, find them in magazines, or install an application on your smartphone or tablet.
Your Exercise Routine
According to Everyday Health, moderate exercise makes it easier for COPD patients to breathe by strengthening respiratory muscles and helping the body use oxygen more efficiently. In many ways, however, this can be a vicious circle because many COPD patients find themselves unable to exercise in the first place. This can lead them to outright stop trying to implement an effective exercise routine into their lives.
The solution to this is to speak with your doctor about joining a pulmonary rehabilitation program. During this program, you will not only learn how to exercise correctly with COPD, but you will also learn what causes flare-ups and exacerbations so that you can avoid them in the future. Many COPD patients do not know very much about their condition or even what it is when they’re first diagnosed, so pulmonary rehab is one of the most effective ways to learn about it and address any concerns you may have.
Generally speaking, your exercise routine is something that you can always improve on. Whether you just started pulmonary rehab or you’ve been exercising on your own, it can be extremely beneficial to try new exercises. If you see improvements in your symptoms, you can make gradual adjustments to your exercise routine, however, if not you can try something else. If you’re in need of guidance be sure to consult your doctor.
Many people would argue that your diet is equally important, if not more important than your exercise routine. The food you eat is inextricably linked to your lung, heart, and circulatory health because the nutrients you gain from your food can benefit (or harm) your overall health. While you might believe that you already maintain a healthy diet, when it comes to coping with a chronic condition like COPD, it’s more about maintaining the right diet for your needs. For example, if you’re someone who’s underweight because of your COPD, you will need to consume more calories and more protein to get back up to a healthy weight.
Your Sleep Schedule
Sleep is vital for anyone’s health, but especially so for people with COPD and other chronic respiratory ailments. While COPD doesn’t cause sleep disorders or vise versa, they often occur simultaneously in a condition called COPD-OSA overlap syndrome. People may live their whole lives with this condition without realizing it and it can lead to loss of sleep, chronic daytime fatigue, and even increase your risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
Aside from getting more sleep, you should take the opportunity to take a sleep test (polysomnography). These tests are done by trained professionals who will monitor your brain activity, breathing rate, and heart rate as you sleep. This information can be used to determine a number of things such as if a sleep disorder is present. It can even help your doctor understand how your COPD is affecting your sleep at night so that you know whether to increase or decrease your oxygen supply while you sleep.
Your Mental Health
While we’ve already mentioned two things you can do to improve your mental health including improving your relationships and spending time with your favorite hobbies, there are many other things you can do as well. Mental health issues look different for everyone. Some people experience regular anxiety or depression whereas others experience it off and on, like with a change of seasons. Others have had anxiety so long that they may not even realize they have it.
One of the best ways to combat mental health issues if you have COPD is to attend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a type of intervention that’s designed to pinpoint where your negative or unconstructive thoughts are coming from and take steps to change them. CBT is used by people of all ages and with a variety of different mental or physical conditions. It’s becoming increasingly popular among COPD patients because the idea of seeking help for mental health conditions is becoming de-stigmatized.
Your Goals and Aspirations
Last but certainly not least, your goals and aspirations should never stop changing and improving even after you’re diagnosed with COPD. Far too many people believe that being diagnosed with a chronic condition means letting go of your dreams or goals, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth. While COPD should be taken seriously, it’s not a doomsday scenario like many people make it out to be. In fact, people who follow a strict treatment plan often see significant improvements to both their symptoms and their life expectancy.
If you want to stick with your short- and long-term goals, it’s always best to write them down. According to Forbes, there are two reasons why this is the case: external storage and encoding. External storage simply means that you will have a physical reminder of what your goals are. You can post sticky notes around your home or around the office to remind yourself to stay on track for what you’re trying to accomplish. The other aspect of this, encoding, refers to your brain's biological ability to remember things better when they’re written down. Studies have shown that note takers are able to retain about 23% more information than those who do not take notes.
COPD is one of the leading lung conditions in the world and it’s even one of the leading morbidities in general. While COPD can lead to debilitating symptoms like a chronic cough, chest pain, and shortness of breath, this condition is unique in that it develops over the course of many years. This means that it’s very possible to live a long and happy life after being diagnosed with COPD.
One of the most important aspects of happiness is being able to always learn and improve at things that are important to you. In this post, we highlighted seven things you should be focusing on. If you can think of anything else, however, be sure to create your own list and make reminders so that you remember you’re never too old to pursue things that are important to you.
If you’re interested in reading more articles about living a rewarding life with COPD, supplemental oxygen therapy, smoking cessation, or holistic health, be sure to bookmark our blog page. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comment section below or reach out to us by phone or email.