10 Ways to Conserve Your Energy If You Have COPD

Shortcuts and Strategies to Help You Through Your Day

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with the progressive loss of energy due to the restriction of air to the lungs. Without oxygen to feed the muscles and tissues of the body, people will often have greater difficulty managing their day-to-day tasks.

Older woman looking through a window
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The loss of energy doesn’t mean that you need to give up on family life or to forego activities for fear of them wearing you out.

If anything, the opposite is true. Keeping active is important in maintaining the aerobic capacity of your lungs. This means doing as much exercise as you can within your limitations and to adjust your way of doing things so that you can maintain the stability of daily life. All it takes is a little foresight and strategy.

Here are 10 tips that may help.

Control Your Breathing

Breathing techniques like pursed-lip breathing and diaphragmatic breathing can help fight fatigue by regulating the air into and out of your lungs. The tendency, when faced with strenuous activity, is to pant. This can wear you out faster by overworking the diaphragm without the benefit of balanced respiration (equal oxygen in, equal carbon dioxide out).

When performing any activity, exhale during the most difficult part through pursed lips and slowly inhale through the nose. Practice, repeat, practice, repeat.

Avoid Unnecessary Tasks

If you find yourself easily tired by everyday tasks, be strategic. Kill two birds with one stone by combining tasks or foregoing unnecessary ones done purely out of habit. For instance:

  • Wear a terrycloth robe to save yourself the extra task of toweling after bathing.
  • Allow your dishes to air rather than towel drying them.
  • Sit instead of standing to do your hair, shave, or put on your makeup. Sitting is known to use up less energy than standing.

Organize Your Activities

Simple scheduling can make a big difference between getting through a day comfortably or giving up mid-stream. As a rule, plan your most strenuous activities at the beginning of the day when you have the most energy. Plan ahead and alternate between tasks that are difficult and those that are easy. Be flexible and give yourself extra leeway in the event you get tired.

The same applies if you have a social engagement. Instead of bowing out, exclude a few daily tasks so that you can spend as much time resting before heading out.

Reorganize Your Closets and Shelves

It’s funny how resistance we can be to change even if it can make our lives easier. The resistance often comes from the fact that we don’t want people to see that we’re ill.

One "invisible" way to make a change is to reorganize your closets, shelves, and drawers so that things are strategically where they need to them. Place the items you use most frequently between waist and shoulder height so you won't have to do a lot of bending or stretching to reach them. Keep all items in the area that you use them to avoid walking back and forth to retrieve them. And don’t be afraid to put items where they are convenient rather than where they are "supposed" to be.

Keep Duplicates of Frequently Used Items

If you can afford it, double up on certain household items to avoid lugging them around the house. For example, if you have a two-story home, keep one vacuum upstairs and another downstairs. Keep a trash receptacle in every room, and try to get a separate set of household cleaners for the kitchen and bathrooms. You'll use them up anyway and will have your a lot of time and energy having them close at hand.

Cook on Sunday for the Entire Week

Preparing all of your meals on Sunday allows you to focus on that task on a day where there is less distraction from work or school. Simply freeze individual-size portions and pop them into the microwave for a hot and easy meal. Cooking on a Sunday also provides you the added bonus of having friends or family around to help out.

Invest in a Rolling Utility Cart

It is understandable that you would want to avoid the stigma of using an electric shopping cart at the store. A rolling utility cart is an excellent alternative given that everyone from seniors to college students uses them. They are also handy around to the house to carry multiple items from one room to the next.

Maintain Good Posture

Good posture conserves energy, plain and simple. Excessive stooping, on the other hand, places extra stress on back, shoulders, and hips, wearing you out faster than if your shoulders, spine, and hips are aligned. When moving heavier items, use proper body mechanics or, better yet, ask a friend to help.

Practice Relaxation Techniques

When you relax, you help restore energy to the body. Make a point of scheduling rest periods throughout the day, ideally by laying on your back, slowing your breathing, and concentrating on relaxing your muscles. Explore techniques such as meditation, Ujjayi breathing, or progressive muscle relaxation. You'll be surprised at how much they help.

Ask for Help

Don’t let pride wear you out. Delegate tasks that are too strenuous for you, such as scrubbing floors, moving furniture, or washing the car. If people don’t offer to help, don’t be cross. You shouldn’t expect everyone to understand your limitations or appreciate what you are going through.

Instead of getting angry, reach out. You'll be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask.

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Article Sources
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  2. Harvard Health Medical School. Learning diaphragmatic breathing. Mar 2016.

  3. American Lung Association. Pursed Lip Breathing. Feb 27, 2020.

  4. Amaro-Gahete FJ, Sanchez-Delgado G, Alcantara JMA, et al. Correction: Energy expenditure differences across lying, sitting, and standing positions in young healthy adultsPLoS One. 2019;14(7):e0219372. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0219372

  5. National Ag Safety Data Base. Stooped and Squatting Postures in the Workplace.

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