Living with COPD: Build Momentum on the Moment You Face

Living with COPD: Build Momentum on the Moment You Face

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

When you feel so weak, that you seem ready to give up; to simply take things lying down, rise to rise to the occasion and do something that very moment!

I am among those who suffer from emphysema. Some days are crummy. You know those days as soon you open your eyes in the morning. Perhaps, it is a day when pollen lays a thick coating on your driveway (and your lungs), or humidity is so high it's ready to turn into droplets any time, Or, perhaps it's a day when the temperature has suddenly turned too cold or too warm without giving enough notice for your lungs to prepare for the challenge. Or, it's just one of those days when, without apparent reason, it feels your lungs are drowning in mucus and you find yourself belaboring for each breath you take. Whether you like it or not, it's one of those days when the Body Victorious has recruited you for free labor.

What are you waiting for? The "work" is cut out for you. Wake up your lungs, catch your breath, do your pursed lip breathing and above all keep the chin up!

We all have awakened to such days, haven't we? I had one such day just a few days ago. But, first, let me give you some personal background. Several weeks ago, my wife and I had invited two couples to our home. They live quite a distance from us. We had promised them a delicious lunch and a visit to a nearby beautiful waterfall. Going to the waterfall involved a short hike but I was confident that I would be able to handle it.

That morning was one of the crummiest! Hot and humid! Let alone hiking, my heart would race and my legs and hands tremble if I walked even a few steps. I thought to myself I can cope with the day if I just stay indoors and "work" on myself as long as it takes. But, what about these people we had invited over for lunch and hike to the waterfall? The more I thought about letting our friends down, the more I felt stress coming on, and my heart and breath would start racing! Thoughts of helplessness and self-pity were raising their sorry heads.

"How ridiculous," I thought to myself, "I am not letting anybody down. We're still providing them lunch and they can go to the waterfall on their own. All I have to tell them is that I couldn't go with them. That's all!" I said to myself, "Now get on with the work you need to do with yourself to make it better."

In spite of my determination, there was an initial moment of self-pity. I thought there is more to life than to lie down all day and try to control the breathlessness and the nausea. The nausea was caused by excessive mucous, nasal congestion and sinus headache. Fortunately, the moment of self-pity soon turned into a moment of gratitude with such thoughts as, "Some people are not even able to do what I can do for myself. Some are in such bad condition that they would give anything to swap their situation with mine!"

I rolled a small blanket to a thickness of about 2-inches and put it under me from waist to head. Opening my chest and dropping my shoulders to the floor (while the spinal column was on the rolled up blanket) I focused on my breath. I did pursed-lip breathing in this position. I don't know how long it took, but at one point I noticed that the breathlessness had greatly reduced and the diaphragm was moving. I was particularly pleased to notice that with each inhalation, the ribcage moved up and down and the chest expanded and exhalation was becoming longer and fuller. I simply focused on relaxing and further settling down my breath, no matter how long it took.

Encouraged by the results, I took a rectangular bolster about 4" high and 10" wide and put it under me from back to head, with an additional pillow under the head. Since I wasn't breathless at this point, I didn't need to do pursed-lip breathing any more. I focused on diaphragm breathing while opening my chest and activating the breathing muscles. Within the next 15-20 minutes, I was breathing rhythmically without a pause or jerk in my breath. The breathing was becoming deeper and fuller. My chest and back felt stronger and more flexible.

Encouraged by those results, this time I took a 9" high round bolster and put it across under my mid back horizontally. Aided by the bolster under the back, the diaphragm was now stronger than ever and moved more freely and vigorously. Every few minutes I would slide it under a different part of my back and chest until I felt my back and chest has come fully alive. The congestion in my sinuses and throat was partly dissolved.

It was probably less than a couple hours that I worked on myself. At this point, I felt good and I wanted to get up and read a book or something. The real surprise came when I walked to the mailbox. I felt that I could go for that walk to the waterfall after all. I asked myself, "Are you doing it because you somehow feel obligated to do it?" The answer I received from myself was this: "I don't have to go but I would love to go."

In spite of the desire to visit the beautiful fall and my confidence that I was fit to do it, I still had a little apprehension with regard to how that walk might work out since it involved some climbing. "Would I be holding everybody up with my frequent stops to catch my breath?" I wondered to myself.

When we actually started walking, I realized that our friends had problems of their own. Like us, they were in their late fifties or early sixties. Two out of four were breathless because of being overweight. One had a back problem and the other had knee problems. So, nobody was holding up anybody; we were just pushing one another!

I was proud of myself! I thought the way to empower myself is to have no expectations and no regrets. Accept yourself as you are at that moment. That moment is your starting point.

Build upon the momentum on the moment you have! Get down to work! No dillydallying, no postponing! No pity party! And, just see what you can do that day. Do your best and accept what you receive the following moment!

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted June 2003


Click for Dr. Sharma's credentials
Dr. Vijai Sharma
Your Life Coach
By Telephone

Feedback- Let us know how we are doing

Terms and Conditions

Web site designed and maintained by Chanda Taylor