There are several causes of breathlessness for example; a respiratory or cardiac condition, being overweight, recovering from COVID-19, also after strenuous exercise.
Breathing control is a way of helping with breathlessness by breathing gently, using as little effort as possible:
- Breathe in and out gently through your nose if you can. If you cannot, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth instead
- Try to let go of any tension in your body with each breath out
- Gradually try to make the breaths slower
- Try closing your eyes to help you to focus on your breathing and to relax
- Breathing control can also help you when you are short of breath or feeling fearful, anxious or in a panic
There are also other methods available to support the management of breathlessness.
- How To Cope With Being Short of Breath – Breathing Exercises
- British Lung Foundation – What can I do to manage my breathlessness?
- British Lung Foundation – Breathlessness leaflet
Some people find changing their position can help improve their symptoms, there are further resources available on what positions may help relieve symptoms for you:
- How to Cope With Being Short Of Breath – Positions
- Lung Health Institute – Best Positions to Reduce Shortness of Breath
New onset breathlessness should be reviewed by a health care provider especially when there is no underlying respiratory diagnosis. If you are unable to speak in three word sentences (or less) please seek urgent medical advice/ intervention.
Breathlessness with central chest pain is a medical emergency and you should ring 999 or follow your treatment plan as advised by your health care provider.
Breathing control and sputum clearance
Some people clear sputum from their lungs (by coughing) on a daily basis, others only when they have a chest infection. It is important to be aware of what is normal for you. Any changes could indicate a flare up of a condition or be a sign of an infection. It is important that you contact your GP or alternative health care provider if you feel you have any symptoms of an infection.
Coughing can be tiresome and use a lot of effort, the following links provide guidance on sputum clearance techniques which can reduce the effort required for this and some handy hints.
- Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Respiratory Care – Breathing control leaflets
- The Active Cycle of Breathing Techniques leaflet
Pacing and energy conservation
Tiredness is a common symptom in breathing conditions. It makes you feel less motivated to keep active, which means that often you avoid activities. This can lead to you having even less energy, which can make you more tired. If this behaviour becomes a habit, the cycle can often be difficult to break.
Here is an idea to help you manage your fatigue:
If you imagine your energy in terms of having a ‘jug of energy’, some activities will top up the energy and other activities will use up the energy in your jug. Prioritise what you use your energy on. Try to keep your ‘jug’ at least a quarter full all times.
There are a number of resources and ideas available to help manage your fatigue: