If you have asthma, keep an eye on your stress levels - 43% of people with asthma tell us stress triggers their symptoms. - Asthma UK
**Asthma and Stress
-Whether it’s work, illness, problems where we live, or planning a big event like a wedding, there are lots of reasons we can get stressed.
-Poor sleep and diet can add to the problem.
-If you have asthma and you’re stressed, it can make your asthma symptoms worse.
-Stress makes you more likely to react to your usual asthma triggers – like pets, pollen or colds and flu.
-It can trigger symptoms indirectly too. You may get angry more easily when you’re under stress, and anger is an emotional asthma trigger.
-If your stress levels stay high for a long time, you may notice you react to asthma triggers more often, and with worse symptoms.
-Too much stress can sometimes lead to feelings of anxiety or panic attacks. In a panic attack, stress hormones are released to prepare us to either run away from danger or fight it (the ‘fight or flight’ response).
-We react with symptoms such as a faster heart rate, tense muscles and breathing that is shallow and fast (hyperventilating).
-This change to our breathing pattern can put us at a higher risk of all our usual asthma symptoms, such as tight chest and coughing.
**How do I know if stress is triggering my asthma symptoms?
-The first step is knowing that you’re under stress; sometimes we don’t recognise the signs. Stress can make you feel more irritable, tired, more worried than usual. You might feel teary, restless or find it hard to make decisions.
-The second is understanding that stress levels can make your asthma worse – sometimes we don’t make the connection between stressful events and our asthma symptoms.
-To see if stress might be triggering your asthma symptoms try keeping a diary – write down when and why you’re stressed alongside any asthma symptoms.
-You might start noticing patterns. For example, perhaps you got asthma symptoms more when you were moving to a new house, or your asthma seemed worse when you had exams coming up.
**When is stress most likely to trigger asthma?
Stress can affect any of us at any time. But there are times in our lives when we’re more likely to react to stressful situations. For example:
-Women might find they’re more stressed and anxious at certain times in their menstrual cycle, or during menopause.
-Teenagers and young people might be dealing with hormones as well as peer pressure, exams or problems at home. This can all add to their stress levels at an age when they’re less likely to manage stress well.
-Children with asthma exposed to stressful events are more at risk of having an asthma attack, especially if they have a lot of background stress in their life.
**The Relaxation Response
-The relaxation response is the rest and digest part of the nervous system.
-It basically undoes the work of the stress response after a stressful situation.
-The relaxation response happens when we feel safe, nurtured or taken care of.
-It can block effects from your body’s response to stress.
-This is good for your mental and physical health.
**Effective Relaxation Techniques
-The most effective relaxation technique is one that works for you!
-Different relaxation techniques will help different people at different times.
-What works for you this week, may not work next week.
-But it might work again next month.
-Our needs vary and so it’s important to have a toolbox of relaxation techniques to help you on a regular basis.