Losing strength and fitness while you are recovering from an acute illness, which can make you breathless easily while performing daily chores. Feeling breathless can make you anxious, which can make your breathlessness worse. Staying calm and learning the best way to manage your breathlessness will help.

Your breathlessness should improve as you slowly increase your activities and exercise, but in the meantime, the positions and techniques below can help manage it in early phases of recovery.

If you start to feel shortness of breath and it does not get better with these positions or techniques, contact your treating doctor immediately.

Positions to ease breathlessness
These are some positions that may reduce your breathlessness. Try each of them to see which one/s help you. You can also try the breathing techniques described below while in any of these positions to help ease your breathing.

High side lying
Lying on your side propped up by pillows, supporting your head and neck, with your knees slightly bent.

Forward lean sitting
Sitting at a table, lean forwards from the waist with your head and neck resting on the pillow, and your arms resting on the table. You can also try this without the pillows.

Forward lean sitting (no table in front)
Sitting on a chair, lean forwards to rest your arms on your lap or the armrests of the chair.

Forward lean standing
While standing, lean forwards onto a windowsill or other stable surface.

Deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing
This technique will help you to relax and control your breathing:

  • ● Sit in a comfortable and supported position
  • ● Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach
  • ● Only if it helps you to relax, close your eyes (otherwise leave them open) and focus on your breathing
  • ● Slowly breathe in through your nose (or mouth if you are unable to do this) and then out through your mouth
  • ● As you breathe, you will feel the hand on your stomach rise more than the hand on your chest
  • ● Try to use as little effort as possible and make your breaths slow, relaxed, and smooth

Paced breathing
This is useful to practice when carrying out activities that might take more effort or make you breathless, like climbing the stairs or walking up a hill. It is important to remember that there is no need to rush.

  • ● Think about breaking the activity down into smaller parts to make it easier to carry out without getting so tired or breathless at the end
  • ● Breathe in before you make the ‘effort’ of the activity, such as before you climb up a step
  • ● Breathe out while making the effort, such as climbing up a step
  • ● You may find it helpful to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth

Using mindfulness to cope with stress
Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. Mindfulness techniques can vary, but in general, mindfulness meditation involves a breathing practice and awareness of body and mind. Practicing mindfulness meditation doesn't require props or preparation (no need for candles, essential oils, or mantras, unless you enjoy them). To get started, all you need is a comfortable place to sit, 3 to 5 minutes of free time, and a judgment-free mindset.

Try a one-minute mindfulness exercise (Mindfulness meditation will be guided by the therapist in the session)
Take one minute to try this brief mindfulness exercise. Following this, then the number of minutes can be slowly increased.

Relaxation Techniques for better breathing
Sit up straight. Breathe in through your nostrils (rib cage expands), and then breathe out slowly through your mouth. Breathing this way relaxes muscles, helps reduce mental stress and also reduces the likelihood of muscle and back pain.

Visualize
Sit or lie down and close your eyes. For 5 to 10 minutes, imagine a safe place, a place you love. (It may be your room, the beach/mountains, or the house you grew up in). Breathe slowly and deeply as you imagine what you see, feel, hear, taste, and smell in your special place.

Source

  1. 1. Support for Rehabilitation Self-Management after COVID-19- Related Illness - https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/support-for-rehabilitation-self-management-after-covid-19-related-illness

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