Tips for living with lung disease and lung cancer in ‘new normal’ “Humans are social creatures and we are not used to social distancing. The difficult part of…
Uncertainty and unpredictable times
Living with a lung condition and the prospect of progression and deterioration causes feelings of anxiousness for many. The pandemic has added an additional layer of stress and worry for people affected by lung conditions.
If you notice feelings of anxiety rise up, take the time to ask yourself: is your mind being hypervigilant and trying to get you to make ‘worst case scenario’ plans? Or is it truly a situation that warrants you being concerned? If it is truly a situation that warrants concern, take action to keep yourself safe. If, however, your mind is trying to get you to engage in ‘worst-case scenario’ planning, quietly acknowledge what is worrying you and maybe even write it down. Then ask yourself if you can become engaged in more worthwhile thoughts; if you can let yourself be distracted or engaged in a pleasurable pastime?
Self-confidence can waver during stressful times. Thinking about venturing out into the community where there are high rates of community transmission can create added worry for people living with a lung condition. If you feel like you have lost a lot of self-confidence, a mental health professional can help you. But if it is ‘just a bit of a dint’, you might find that you can regain some confidence by calling in your support network.
If you’re venturing out, it might be helpful to take a friend or family member with you to act as a back-up person and, if need, provide you with a distraction. You can start with small steps. Make your trips out of the house to well-known places where you feel welcome, comfortable and know the environment. It can also help to take your own hand santiser and spare face masks, for example, to help you feel prepared and safe. When it’s safe to do so, and if current government restrictions and recommendations allow, challenge yourself to be a bit more adventurous; go somewhere new or stay out longer. The worst thing you can do when feeling low in self-confidence is to give in to the feeling. Challenge yourself and try not to let your feelings become a bully.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people living with lung conditions have felt incredibly vulnerable. Extended social isolation periods and remaining vigilant about social distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene are an ongoing reminder of being at increased risk due to your lung condition.
What is concerning for many people is that as community transmission reduces, it does not take long for the broader community to become complacent. Some people quickly forget about social distancing and other strategies such as hand washing or sanitising. It can feel like these people forget that these actions not only put them at risk but also you as well.
“COVID-19 created another form of grief for me. It was a reality check on how vulnerable I am. It felt like I was reliving the time when I was first diagnosed.” – Anonymous, living with Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension.
It is easy under these circumstances to become annoyed, angry and scared. You might feel like saying something or turning around and going home. There will be some situations where you might feel like you can ask the person to give you a little space. If you do choose to say something, remember that you are more likely to get compliance and a good outcome if you are not aggressive or angry when you make your request.
There may also be situations where you assess that the event or place that you are going to might not be as well-regulated as you would expect. In these circumstances, it might be wise to take extra precautions and possibly stay home or be prepared to leave if you feel it is too risky. Discussing this possibility with other people in your group will help you to make these decisions and not feel alone.
The downside of being extra careful and risk averse is that you may increase feelings of isolation. People are social beings; we are not meant to live alone without the ability to go out and socialise, or to live in isolation for long periods. Socially isolating to stay safe can result in feelings of sadness and loneliness. Don’t let physical distancing become emotional distancing. Regardless of whether you connect online or via the telephone, try to connect with someone once a day.
Looking after your mental health during coronavirus
Join Debra Sandford (Clinical Psychologist) to learn about how to look after your mental health during COVID-19.View more
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Mind Matters was part funded by a COVID Response Grant from MSD.