Tackling Asthma-Related Stress Head-on

Let’s be honest here: having asthma can be stressful. There’s that whole not being able to breathe right thing, which is stressful enough, but then there are the triggers, being told to avoid the triggers, the medicine, picking up the medicine, figuring out the medicine, paying for the medicine, remembering to take the medicine, the doctors appointments, remembering to go to the doctors appointments, remembering to ask all the questions at the doctors appointments, and, oh yeah, doing all that in the fashion of a run-on-sentence while still having to be able to breathe. Which is the thing that asthma makes difficult. And, of course… stress hormones circulating in your body can make asthma worse, which doesn’t help things either!

April is Stress Awareness Month. So, if you’re feeling a little or a lot stressed by your asthma, well, you’ve got a good reason to. Here are some healthy ways you can cope with that stress—or any stress!—without resorting to things like eating a 4L container of ice cream (I tried to look up the conversion: in America, this is sold as 4.25 liters or 4.4999~ quarts), or sleeping for a solid three days.

Tips to beat asthma-related stress

  • Write it down. Journaling has been suggested by research to reduce stress and be good for our mental health [1]. It’s not going to cure anxiety or depression of a clinical nature, but it can definitely help you get through stressful slumps. That’s right, journals aren’t just for your former, angsty teenage self, they’re for now, too.
  • Share it with someone. Why do Health-Union communities like Asthma.Net rock so much? Because we write it down and then share it with the internet. You know you’re not alone, and we get it off our chests. (No pun intended, but kind of intended now.) Want to share your story with the community? Go here.
  • Find someone who gets you. Sometimes we just need to vent. Whether in person, on the phone, or online, find somebody who gets you and talk about it! Sharing your feelings can not just help you feel better, it can also help you problem-solve in rough patches. If you’re having a rough time, it’s okay to ask for help!
  • De-stress. What do you do to de-stress? Writing or talking are just two ways to communicate how you’re feeling. Exercise—even “just” going for a walk!, listening to music, distracting yourself with a fun podcast, watching a movie, taking a bath, reading a book, creating some art or music, are just a handful of strategies you can use to take a timeout and de-stress.
  • Prevent stress before it starts. Use to-do lists to make notes to get things done. When do your meds need refilling (approximately)? Can your pharmacy auto-refill and/or deliver your meds? Can you automate certain daily tasks using technology so you can focus on what you need to instead of mundane-ish things? Think about what causes you stress, and what you can do to change that. And if you get stuck, consult Google—seriously, LifeHacker has some killer hacks to make your life easier to manage!
    Another method of prevention is to change how you think about things that are stressful to you. Mindfulness—being in the present moment—can help you to prevent stress by changing your mindset. There are many resources to learn how to be more mindful, but I’ve found my favourite app for mindfulness and meditation to be Smiling Mind, as it provides both meditations and guided mindfulness exercises to help everyone from beginners to people needing a refresh or reset to get in the groove and learn about mindfulness in manageable daily bits.
  • Seek professional help. If you’re really overwhelmed by your asthma, there are therapists and counselors who have experience in helping people manage chronic illness and adjusting to life with chronic diseases like asthma. If you’re struggling, reach out to a professional. If you ever feel like harming yourself, reach out to a crisis line or healthcare provider. If you are considering suicide, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency department for care immediately. You are important, and you can get through this, even if it is not easy. It is okay to ask for help!

Asthma is tough, and will definitely cause most if not all of us stress from time to time. If you take time to care for yourself and your feelings (not just your lungs and body!), it will help you keep your life—and asthma—in better control!

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