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Coping with Shortness of Breath: Controlling Stress

When you have lung problems, it may be hard for you to breathe. Stress can cause shortness of breath. Learn to relax and control stress to prevent shortness of breath and avoid panic.


When Anxiety Takes Over

When you feel short of breath, your neck, shoulder, and chest muscles tense. You become anxious and begin to breathe faster. Your breathing muscles tire and trap air in your lungs. Your chest may feel tight. Anxiety increases and you may start to panic.

Stop Panic Before It Starts

The key to controlling panic is to break the cycle before it starts. When you are becoming short of breath, sit, relax your arms and shoulders, and lean forward, resting your upper body on your forearms. Breathe in slowly and deeply, then exhale slowly and fully. Take at least twice as long to exhale as to inhale.


Learn to Relax

Control stress by avoiding things that trigger stress and by relaxing when you start feeling tense. Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and try the following:

  • Picture yourself in an ideal place, doing something you enjoy. Stay in that place until you feel relaxed.

  • Slowly tense, then relax, each part of your body. Start with your toes and work up to your scalp. As you breathe in, tighten the muscles. Keep them tight for several seconds. Then relax as you breathe out.

  • You can also relax by doing tai chi or yoga, praying, meditating, or listening to music or relaxation tapes.


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