Coping with breathlessness

Long term conditions: COPD lady in chair

You may have developed your own strategies for managing your breathlessness. Remaining well, active and without a chest infection is important to managing your condition.

Whilst everyone is different, exercise and how you spend your day are very important. Exercise is vital for keeping your body and lungs fit. This enables you to continue a range of tasks and interests each day. 

Strategies you can use include:

  • Planning ahead so that you can balance your energy with time and any other resources that you have available
  • Setting priorities for the day and making choices about how you want to use your energy
  • Sitting down whilst doing things, for example folding washing or preparing meals
  • Resting before and after energetic activities, such as shopping or exercising
  • Taking exercise like short walks regularly, incorporating stairs or increasing gradients if possible - using stairs provides better exercise
  • Keeping a bag at the bottom of the stairs to collect items that must go upstairs will avoid you going back and forth
  • Build yourself up when you take exercise by starting slowly and going further each day - consult your GP or physiotherapist about realistic goals for you
  • Breathe slowly when you walk and find an easy, even speed
  • Use your inhaler and/or nebuliser before going out - using treatments that improve your breathing make exercise more efficient and comfortable
  • Practising breathing control techniques and learning to relax will help breathing be more effective
  • Changing your posture or finding a quiet spot and listening to music may help your breathing
  • Pursed lip breathing, where you breathe in slowly though your nose and breathe out slowly through pursed lips may help your breathing and assist you to control rate and depth of your breathing
  • Counted breathing may help: try counting one and two for breathing in and three and four for breathing out, increasing the count to three, four and five to breathe out longer helps. This can be used on the stairs and can make breathing feel easier and/or take more exercise comfortably.

Keeping well and employing strategies to help you manage your breathlessness will hopefully make your life and breathing easier. It is important that you can continue doing what you value and enjoy.