Thursday, 17 May 2012

INNOVATIVE HEALTH: Anxiety and panic in COPD

Jan Lundstrom of the local Huff-n-Puff support group for those with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease asked me to speak at one of their meetings recently. He indicated that panic and anxiety were major issues for those with this disease, and any helpful hints I could provide would be appreciated. While researching the topic, I ran across a great little e-book by Dr. Vijai Sharma, a psychologist, yoga expert, and a COPD patient himself who was diagnosed in 1994. Dr. Sharma's free e-book, especially his "Emergency Tip Sheet" for panic control is a must read for anyone with COPD. Here I will summarize the techniques he recommends for use when anxiety and shortness of breath strikes.

1. Monitor your breath. At the first sign of shortness of breath (SOB), tell your body to relax. Start pursed lip breathing (PLB) immediately. PLB involves breathing in through the nose and slowly blowing the breath out through the lips with pressure -- like the pressure you'd exert when blowing up a balloon. This will help to expel the carbon dioxide that is trapped in the little air sacs in the lungs. Focus your mind on something in front of you and count to measure your inhalation time compared to your exhalation time. The goal is to make your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation.

2. Take the medications, inhalers, duo-nebs, etc. exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Remind yourself that although very unpleasant, the panic, anxiety and SOB caused by the biological emergency response of your body does not mean that you will never catch your breath again. Believe in and expect a positive outcome. Silently say reassuring words to yourself such as "I've survived this before, I will survive it this time, I can handle this, I am becoming calm and relaxed."

3. Be aware that just as your body has a biological emergency response, it also has a biological calming response which you can learn to employ. Did you know that the first flush of adrenaline, if not compounded by further panic thoughts will, in just 90 seconds, have run its course? By thinking calming thoughts, you will be able to stop pumping more new adrenaline. Adrenalin that was already released in your system, causing the panic symptoms, will eventually be neutralized. Acknowledge the panic symptoms, but do not focus on them or try to fight them. Fighting them only makes it worse. I've heard that what we focus on grows, and what we resist persists... so attempt to focus on relaxation.

For maintenance, learn a relaxation technique and practice it two or three times a day for 15 to 20 minutes. There are a number of techniques: meditation, guided meditation, yoga, Reiki, and progressive muscle relaxation to name just a few. Aroma therapy and music therapy may also help with inducing relaxation. Becoming more aware of your body and mind through these practices will help you catch the advance signs of an anxiety attack before it becomes severe.

With these relaxation tools, you will be able to bring about the calming response in record time. Jan from Huff-n-Puff would also want everyone to know that if you suffer from SOB, talk to your doctor about a Pulmonary Function Test to determine the status of your lungs and Pulmonary Rehabilitation to help maintain the lung function you have for as long as possible.

Reference: Dr Vijai Sharma . Sharon Weaver, R.N., is a certified emotion code practitioner and reiki master and teacher in Alamogordo with The Innovative Health Network. To contact her directly, call 430-1557 or email or

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Nice post! Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me back.