Dec. 23, 2019—Strong emotions can take your breath away—quite literally.
When you feel anger, anxiety or excitement—or yell, laugh or cry—your muscles tighten and you breathe faster. For most of us, this isn't a big deal. But for people with asthma, it can cause a flare-up.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, strong emotions themselves don't cause asthma symptoms. Instead, it's the physical changes those strong feelings have on our breathing that can trigger an attack.
Of course, the goal isn't to stop experiencing strong emotions. But by managing your stress, it's possible to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.
Using mindfulness to get calm
Guiding your breath and your thoughts can help you manage stress. Here are two exercises to try when you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed:
1. Mindful breathing. Breathe slowly—in through your nose, out through your mouth. Try three rounds of inhaling for seven seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds and then breathing out for seven seconds. Be in the moment.
2. Mindful observation. Pick an object from nature that's near you. Just watch it for a minute or two. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time—take in every detail. Try to keep your attention on it and relax into this observation.
Make a prevention plan
Exercises like the ones above can help you through a stressful moment. But it's important to have some longer-term strategies to cope with stress and anxiety too.
To help manage the stress in your life, the American Lung Association offers these tips:
- Exercise most days of the week. Stretching can also reduce stress.
- Choose healthy foods. And go easy on things that can make stress worse, like caffeine and alcohol.
- Get enough sleep each night. It's easier to deal with stress when you're rested.
- Connect with people. Make room in your day to spend time with friends and family who lift your spirits.
- Be alone for a few minutes each day. This time out can help put things in perspective.
- Talk about your concerns. Sharing your feelings—with family, a counselor or someone else you trust—can help you find solutions.
For more about how stress affects your whole body, check out this infographic.