By Chris Garvey FNP, MSN, MPA
UCSF Pulmonary Rehabilitation and Sleep Disorders

Being short of breath may slow you down and challenge your ability to be active in your daily life, but there are certain strategies that may help. Start with organizing your day. Plan only one major activity per day, such as shopping, going to the doctor, visiting with friends, etc. Manage your pace by alternating harder and easier tasks with rest between tasks.

Use paced breathing – also known as pursed lips breathing, during tasks. Inhale slowly through the nose for a count of two, and exhale slowly through pursed or puckered lips for a count of four. Exhale during exertion when performing activity.

Use larger muscles to perform work. When vacuuming, use your legs to walk the vacuum back and forth. Keep your upper arms close to your body.

When cooking, try to mix, cook, serve, and store meals in the same dish or bowl. Make enough for a couple of meals and store extra servings in plastic containers in the freezer or refrigerator.  Also use a fan or vent when cooking to reduce strong odors.

Avoid using very hot water when bathing so that you don’t create excess steam that may make it harder to breathe. Use a sturdy shower chair and hand held shower head. Dry with a terry cloth robe.

Don’t go shopping when stores are most crowded. If using oxygen, put it in the shopping cart basket. Ask the grocery clerk to bag frozen and refrigerated items separately. At home, take these items inside first.

Climb stairs slowly. Hold onto the handrail. Inhale slowly at rest, and exhale through pursed lips as you climb one or two stairs. Stop and inhale again, exhale again as you slowly climb.

If you continue to struggle with shortness of breath, ask your doctor if pulmonary rehabilitation would help you control symptoms.

Getting More Out of Your Day
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