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How to Conserve Your Energy with COPD

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Dear Coach,
My question concerns conserving energy. I’m only 56 years old and I really enjoy a shower and shampoo, yet the exhaustion of that activity wears me out so badly that it takes me 1-2 hours often to get my energy back. It’s hard to enjoy something when it results in such debilitating fatigue.

Thanks so much for your help in this matter and the assistance you provide so many in need.

—Need to Regain My Energy

Dear Need to Regain,
The only way I know how to handle energy conservation—in addition to maintaining strength in the muscles of your arms, legs and hands—is to do things smarter. For example, you could invest in a shower or bath chair and take your showers while seated. Use warm water as opposed to hot. Use water to get yourself wet, turn it off to lather up, and turn it on again to rinse. Have a terrycloth robe close by to dry off as opposed to using a towel. Also, many find that a hand held shower is easier to use. And if you require supplemental oxygen, wear it in the shower. Don’t worry about getting water up your nose.

Conserving Energy Another trick that works is to plan activity before you do it. For instance, if it’s something as simple as going downstairs, think before performing the task to make sure you get everything you will need in one trip. A tip about climbing stairs that really works: Always do your pursed-lips breathing and climb up only as you breathe out. In addition to planning ahead, make sure you allow enough time to get where you need to go and do what you need to get done—without rushing. Being in a hurry is a big breath buster!

I also encourage you to ask your doctor about getting a referral to an Occupational Therapist who can talk with you about your biggest challenges and work with you one-on-one to teach you ways of doing everyday tasks with less shortness of breath. Pulmonary rehab is an excellent place to learn how to conserve your energy and maximize your lungs.

I don’t know how much help my answers will be to you, but I sincerely hope they will offer your some assistance or at least maybe a starting point.

Good luck, and keep us informed.

The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

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  • The terrycloth bathrobe is a great help. I would dry myself in a hurry due to being cold especially in the winter. I purchased a heavy good quality robe and the first time I used it saved me energy, shortness of breath I was upset for not purchasing one sooner.
    Reply
  • The steam and humidity was an issue for me when I showered, so I always left the door open. This helped alot. Arrange everything like your soap, conditioner, body soap, wash cloth, and towels are all conveniently located. Sitting while showering and toweling off helped alot also. You just need to think a head and plan for what your doing. I always laid out all my clothes the night before. Things like this and what the coach says above will help alot. The other thing is to slow down and don't try to get in any hurry. You can do twice as much twice as fast if you slow way down. I was a study in slow motion, but I never stopped doing anything and usually did it better then my friends that always tried to get things done quickly.
    Reply
  • I too leave the door open and I always use a shower seat, that has helped me immensly. I have still to lie down for a while anyway. I usually wear something that I can just throw on with no effort. I buy simple and comfortable dresses, that way if someone stops by I at least look dressed. I rarely get fully dressed anymore. I am overweight so I extra folds of skin. I have found that if I apply deodorant in these areas I can go longer without a shower. Gross, I know, but it helps me. I love the idea of a good quality bath robe, will look for one. Thanks for the suggestion
    Reply

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