Why do I need to know about Relaxation?

Relaxation of body and mind is good for everyone, but for people living with a lung condition it is particularly important for two reasons:

  1. Your body’s response to being short of breath can make you tense up, which sets up a vicious cycle that makes it harder for you to get the oxygen you need
  2. Feeling stressed or anxious can bring on an attack of breathlessness or make symptoms worse 

Relaxing might sound simple, but if you have a lung condition it can be complicated and sometimes means having to override your body’s natural responses to being short of oxygen. Therefore, we need to think of relaxation as a skill that requires practice, but once learned it can help you to combat breathlessness, and make you feel calmer.

How can Relaxation help my Lung Condition?

Feeling breathless naturally makes us feel stressed and anxious, which sets up a vicious cycle in our bodies. Our brains respond to being short of breath and stress by making us breathe faster, and at the same time our heart rate goes up and our muscles tense up, which further increases the need for oxygen. But fast, shallow breathing stops lungs refilling fully with fresh air, and so we feel more breathless, and the cycle continues.

Using relaxation techniques can help you break this cycle of breathlessness and anxiety, so that your muscles are able to relax, your breathing becomes slower and deeper, and your heart rate lowers.

How can I practice Relaxation?

There are many ways to relax and lots of websites, YouTube videos and apps that can help too. Relaxation can be as simple as doing a calming activity that you enjoy, like reading a book, gentle yoga, watching TV, painting, sewing, or listening to music.

At particularly stressful times or when you are feeling breathless you might want to try a relaxation technique, including:

Some techniques, like arm stroking, are useful if you are a carer helping someone else to relax.

Where can I find out more?

The links below provide more information on the importance of relaxation for people with a lung disorder:

ASTHMA+LUNG UK- How can I manage my anxiety?

Your Guide to Relaxation & breathing techniques- iCope

Life with Pulmonary Fibrosis- Relaxation