If you have been diagnosed with COPD, you have probably already had to make adjustments to your normal way of living to compensate for decreased energy levels. Chances are that if you have COPD, even the most commonplace activities can cause you to be short of breath and tire easily.
Household chores are a part of everyday life commonly overlooked by COPD patients. People do housework on a daily basis, and don’t give a second thought to what amount of energy things like vacuuming the house or doing laundry require. People with COPD do not have this luxury since they are already short of breath to begin with.
Learning how to strategically tackle common chores will help you budget your time to avoid exacerbation along with accomplishing the work you need to do to keep your home running smoothly. This will take planning, prioritizing, and possibly reorganizing your home and your daily life.
The ABCDE’s of COPD are easily understandable guidelines to help you conserve energy to accomplish what you need to get done daily!
A Stands for Aim
Changing the way you do things on a daily basis is not an easy thing to do. A key to help you manage your expectations and your COPD is to keep your focus, therefore helping reduce undue stress that will hurt you both physically and emotionally. Chronic Stress can impair your ability to concentrate, can raise your blood pressure, and can negatively impact your sleep cycles, and ultimately lowers your immune system. Chronic stress makes you more susceptible to illnesses and overall decreases your energy levels, which can lead you to shortness of breath and other symptoms of your COPD.
An effective way to aim and keep focused is to plan your schedule ahead of time. Some tips to help you do this are as follows:
- Spread out what needs to get done through your week. Plan to tackle a few items a day and slowly work to completion.
- Map your trips the most efficient way that you can. This avoids needless travel which can cause fatigue, stress and affect breathing.
- Stay flexible. You can predict your chores; however, you can’t predict how you are going to feel on a particular day. On days you have more energy, tackle that extra chore. If you’re a morning or afternoon person, make plans accordingly to maximize output while conserving energy.
- Organize your home by placing commonly used items below shoulder height. You do not want to overexert yourself and cause needless use of your energy. Some examples of commonly used items are: toasters, microwaves, pans, toiletries, kitchen items, books, computers, and clothing.
B Stands for Bearings
Listening to your body and evaluating how you are feeling will help you decide how much you should be doing that day. Becoming familiar with your new normal will take some getting used to. If you develop a mind-body connection, you will quickly learn where your new energy levels are at and what you can take on each day. Here are some tips for getting your bearings:
- Have a flexible chore schedule. This will allow you to evaluate what level you are at and decide on the plans for the day
- Having proper posture will open your airways allowing for easier breathing as you complete your chores.
- Pace yourself and don’t rush, even if you are feeling full of energy. This could lead to shortness of breath and not getting as much done as you thought.
- Just as you do in a workplace, schedule yourself a break. After meals, wait 45 minutes to an hour before resuming your chores. Digestion of food uses oxygen, so it’s important to wait so your oxygen level can be as high as possible.
C Stands for Calculate
Performing chores with your COPD must be carefully planned and executed with precision. Ask yourself how you feel and if you should be doing the chore you are thinking of doing. Evaluate the benefits and risks of doing the chore to calculate in your mind what you should do. This is why the mid-body connection is so important, because the answer comes from you. Tasks you completed outside of the home may have to change to accommodate your COPD.
Whether it’s your group of friends, church groups, or community events, you may need to step back and let others fill your roles. Remind yourself that accepting help is okay because YOUR health is important. You may be surprised to find that most people will be glad to help. You will still be a valuable member of society; your role just needs to be adjusted. Below are some helpful strategies to help you calculate and make the right decision:
- Alternate between difficult and less difficult chores. You may be tempted to get all the big chores out of the way first, however, this is not a good idea as it might leave you tired and less productive in the long run.
- Set realistic expectations and limits. Your calculation of strategy needs to be smart, safe, and responsible to you and your COPD.
- Consider getting carts for wheeling things around in your house. These are at waist level and will save energy as you perform your chores.
- If you find your COPD is getting the better of you during a chore, stop. Don’t feel guilty as it causes unnecessary stress which drains you physically and emotionally.
D Stands for Decide to Be Deliberate
Only you can decide what you are capable of doing each day. Maximizing your energy and working smartly and deliberately will help you get more chores done. Learning how to make deliberate motions is important to your lungs and overall health. Learning to think in a deliberate manner requires forethought and practice, so study and introduce these movements slowly into your daily routine. Here are some things to consider as you learn to be more deliberate:
- Keep objects close to your body when lifting and use proper posture.
- Keep your back as straight as possible when lifting.
- If your chore requires long periods of standing in one place, put one foot on a stool and alternate throughout the task. COPD can have an effect on your circulation and this will help keep your legs from getting tired.
- Breathing techniques are important. Inhale when at rest then exhale as your work is being done.
E Stands for Energy Conservation
When performing chores with your COPD, energy conservation is vital. Below, I will list for you some everyday techniques to conserve energy. There may be some repeat topics, however they are important to review again:
- Try and sit for as many activities as possible. Alternate activities that require you to be on your feet with sit-down tasks to conserve your energy and give your lungs a much-needed break.
- Mom and dad always said don’t lean on the table but COPD will require you to change that way of thinking. Now you need to lean on the table. This action will conserve energy as well as provide stability if your COPD should act up.
- Put a chair in your bathtub when taking a shower. This will also help prevent falls if you should happen to get short of breath and dizzy.
- Combine as many tasks as possible, but listen to what your body is telling you. Stop if you need to and take a break or pick up where you left off tomorrow.
- Planning ahead is so important. A schedule will give you a sense of calm and reduce unneeded stress from you trying to hurry to get things done.
Ultimately, the power is in your hands to master your daily chores while effectively managing your COPD. While I have prepared a roadmap, it is up to you to do the work. A great resource that I used to write this article is the book: The COPD Solution; A Proven 10- Week Program for Living and Breathing Better with Chronic Lung Disease by Dawn Lesley Fielding, RCP, AE-C. This book would be a great investment for you and provides great tips and encouragement as you learn about new ways to manage your life with COPD.