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Journaling for COPD
If chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is new in your life, you may be surprised by the symptoms you are experiencing.
You expected there to be some discomfort, but the tightness in your chest, the shortness of breath, the coughing, and the lack of energy are more powerful and more persistent than anticipated. You are trying to follow your doctor’s recommendations regarding treatment, but discouragement is growing as your symptoms continue.
Another surprise that accompanies COPD is the host of mental health symptoms paired with the disease. The physical issues are one thing; you were told about those, but no one told you about the psychological concerns.
The worry, stress, depression and panic — your mental health and physical health are feeding off of each other. This results in a festering problem as your wellbeing shrinks.
You need relief. You need to find a solution that will slow the progression of your disease and begin to reverse the momentum in your favor. In a situation like this, you want to find an intervention that is low risk, high reward, and one that fits easily into your life. For you, the intervention may be journaling.
Journaling might trigger a negative impression. It might remind you of pink diaries being filled with names of grade school crushes, or it might seem like writing a few words on a blank page could never provide you with the kind of symptom alleviation that you are looking to accomplish.
In either case, your perceptions are wrong; journaling for COPD is an activity well worth your time and effort. It is a great way to gain new information, understand your symptoms, and find relief.
What Do I Write?
At the onset of your journaling experiment, the content of your writing will not matter as much as the act of writing. You won’t know what to write or how to write it, and that is perfectly fine.
Putting too much pressure on yourself or the process of journaling will doom it. Instead, try out different types of journaling to see what you are drawn to. After you have enough time and experience to build consistency, you can revise and refine your journaling style.
Some examples are:
Write only about the positive events that happen each day. What makes you thankful? This type is helpful for those with pessimistic views triggered by depression.
Write about your symptoms, how they change, and what seems to trigger them. This type of journal can be a list of words or ideas rather than long passages.
Mental Health Journal
If your mental health has been suffering due to COPD or other stressors, tracking your symptoms is very helpful. Including information about your sleeping, eating, mood, energy, worry, and any possible triggers will aid in your ability to gather useful information.
If you suffer from COPD you may be concerned that physical activity will worsen your symptoms.
Daily Process Journal
This is the stereotypical journal form where you write about the events of the day and your reactions to them. A journal of this form will work to encompass your complete experience.
The benefit is that it can yield a lot of information, however this information could be overwhelming and too challenging to process.
Since your journal is your own, there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can include all that you wish and exclude anything that feels unimportant. When considering what to journal, determine your goal and what you need to accomplish it.
How Do I Use It?
Good journaling works on a number of levels. The first is that the process of expressing yourself reduces your symptoms.
People with depression, anxiety or COPD may bottle up their feelings because they do not want other people to know how they are feeling. Other people may bottle up their feelings because they do not want themselves to know how they are feeling.
Whether you call it — denial, avoidance or suppression — keeping your feelings inside is a dangerous act that leads to long-term negativity and worsening symptoms. By revealing your symptoms to the pages of your journal, you permit yourself an appropriate outlet for your fears, frustrations, hopes and hurdles.
Once you have benefited from the process of journaling, you can begin benefiting from the content of journaling. If you did a thorough job of being open and honest on the pages of your journal, you will likely uncover some interesting connections and associations between your COPD symptoms and other factors in your life.
Journaling allows you to use all of this information to build conclusions and theories surrounding your symptoms. One such theory could be the connection between anxiety symptoms and COPD.
Many people report increase physical symptoms of anxiety like trouble breathing, restlessness, quickened heart rate and dizziness when their COPD symptoms flare. By journaling, you can begin to understand that these anxious symptoms might be rooted in the condition.
COPD and vertigo are linked, so it's useful to know if your dizziness is caused by your COPD or your anxiety. With this information, you can address your symptoms in the most efficient ways possible.
Is It for Me or for Others?
People have strong feelings about their journal. After all, many bare their heart and soul on the pages, leading to reluctance to share the information for fear of being judged harshly by others.
No one can force you to share the content of your journal, but it is valuable to look back to your original goal. What did you want to accomplish through journaling? Are you achieving this?
If not, you may need an outsider’s feedback and different perspective. They might be able to connect the dots of your life in a way that leads to a new level of understanding.
Your doctor would be an ideal person to share your COPD journal with, and your therapist would appreciate your mental health journal. Trusted friends and family members may aid in the process as well.
Along the way, as people help you to understand yourself, they are awarded the opportunity to understand you better. This can lead to improved relationships and stronger connections.
It’s never too early to start journaling to grasp your COPD symptoms. Even better, it’s never too late. If your COPD or mental health symptoms have been persistent or worsening, try journaling as an additional form of treatment. A few minutes of writing might lead to major breakthroughs.