Living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can be a challenge, but it’s the small steps that can make all the difference on a journey where physical, emotional and mental barriers can obstruct your view.
The new year is often seen as a beginning, a fresh start, a time to adopt new habits to better yourself or your life in some way. You might make resolutions around self-care and committing to an activity that will help maintain your physical and mental health.
If you’re living with COPD, goal setting and being hopeful can be very difficult, particularly when everyday tasks can make you feel out of breath.
Lung Foundation Australia’s Respiratory Care Nurse Nicole Parkinson said rather than look at the bigger – and potentially overwhelming picture – it’s important to remind yourself to stay focused on the small, achievable things.
“Whether you are newly diagnosed or years into your COPD journey, feelings of sadness, anger, frustration, isolation and worry can every so often consume you,” Nicole said.
“To help set realistic health goals for yourself this year, it can help to understand the stages of COPD and the impact each of the stages may have on your everyday life. That way, you can set simple and achievable goals.”
Depending on your stage of COPD, those changes could be as big as altering your dietary habits to support a healthier lifestyle, or as small as taking a short walk around the block every afternoon.
“Keeping physically active every day is important – and this could be an exercise class, or simply getting dressed and walking around your backyard,” Nicole said.
“And while there are physical barriers, it’s also about taking care of your emotional and mental well-being – something just as important as exercise.
“No matter what stage of COPD you are, staying positive is very important to improve your overall well-being. Share your feelings with family and friends. Stay involved with others and aim to keep up with activities or hobbies you enjoy, it really can make all the difference.”
Walking and tapestry are two activities that Meredith Lores sets for herself everyday, to keep her COPD symptoms at bay, and her mind at ease.
“I try to walk either around my street or a shopping centre, as well as do my exercises from pulmonary rehabilitation,” Meredith said.
“I love having lunch or coffee with my husband. Coffee with my friends. Watching my daughter play netball. And I always find time for my hobbies: jigsaws and tapestry.”
Keeping in touch with others living with COPD, and having a strong network of support around Meredith helps on the tougher days.
“I think mentally it can be tough. I suffer with anxiety and depression and at times, it is very hard, especially when I have had an exacerbation. On those days, I turn to my husband, daughter and my psychologist,” Meredith said.
“I believe many other patients with COPD would suffer from anxiety and depression, so it’s very important to ask for help. It improves your well-being. I belong to a COPD Facebook page – these people can truly understand as they’re living with this disease.”
Above all, find the inspiration to carry on, and set goals that are meaningful to you.
“Other people who have COPD often inspire me with their sheer determination. My GP motivates me. She is so encouraging. Volunteering at Lung Foundation Australia is great too. I learn so much, not only from the staff who are wonderful and so helpful, but also from the many resources they offer. To me, the more knowledge patients have, the better they understand COPD. So if volunteering means I am helping others in some way, then I am wrapped,” Meredith said.
To learn more about managing your COPD visit lungfoundation.com.au