Break the Cycle
The relationship between stress and asthma becomes distorted and changed over time. When acute attacks first occurred, they were likely met with surprise, confusion and fear. Maybe you considered the attack to be an anomaly or a fluke, not likely to happen again. With repetition, the fear grows larger and is no longer confined to the attack itself. Instead, it becomes generalized to an anticipatory fear. This means that when symptoms are not present, you find yourself worrying about the next attack, how bad it’s going to be and what you can do to avoid it. Your stress has you convinced that this planning helps when, in actuality, it raises your overall anxiety, which makes it more likely to have an attack sooner.
These steps represent a typical asthma cycle when anxiety is involved.
- The event represents the first symptoms to appear including shortness of breath, tightness in chest, wheezing and coughing.
- The way that your mind interprets your symptoms will dictate the outcome. When you perceive the situation as a normal, expected asthma attack, you will feel only discomfort. Your mind and body can manage discomfort relatively well, and you will move through the symptoms more quickly. When you perceive the situation as danger, your mind will react with panicked thinking. Your body will react with tension, rigidity, as you are more likely to hold your breath.
- This is the actual attack. It could be asthma, anxiety or a combination of the two. Attacks can last anywhere from a few seconds up to 30 minutes. Some people claim that anxiety attacks can last for hours, but if your symptoms last more than half an hour, you may be misperceiving your symptoms. Be sure to talk it over with your doctor.
- Attack ends and relief. The good news is that all panic attacks and asthma attacks end. In the moment, they feel like they will go on for eternity, but even the worst panic attack ever ended. After the end, you experience a mix of relief, gratitude and thankfulness that it has concluded.
- The feelings of relief do not last long, though. Shortly after the attack, your mind begins to anticipate the next attack. Where will it be? When will it be? How bad will it be? It is this anticipation that sets the stage for the next anxiety attack. Your symptoms build until the next event presents and the cycle begins again.
Treat the Physical
To avoid feelings of being overwhelmed or desperation, work to complete the behaviors you know will improve your physical symptoms.
- Gaining awareness of your triggers will aid in your attempts to reduce symptoms. Be conscious of days, times and activities that seem to set off symptoms. By noticing trends, you become better able to add prevention. If mold and dust induce your asthma symptoms, take steps to protect your environment or avoid situations that are too risky.
- Follow recommendations. Your doctor is looking out for your health and best interest. Following her recommendations is a must to improve you asthma. Consistency is key. If you do not follow the treatment plan consistently, you do not have information regarding effectiveness. Be open and comfortable discussing your symptoms and fears associated with asthma. If you do not have a strong bond with your physician, seek a second opinion for better results.