Why Stress May Be Making Your Asthma Worse

When you think about stress, you might think about how it affects your mental well-being. Some situations can weigh so heavily on your mind that it feels like the day may never end.

However, stress can also affect you physically and, perhaps not surprisingly, can worsen your asthma symptoms.

What is stress?

Stress arises from situations that trigger your body’s fight-or-flight response. Your senses send information to your amygdala, the part of your brain that helps process fear. After your amygdala translates that information into distress, it alerts your hypothalamus.

Your hypothalamus, in turn, works with your autonomic nervous system to increase your breathing, elevate your blood pressure, and increase your heart rate. Even more impressive, your body does this before you can fully process the situation that initiated it.

It is also worth noting that stress is not inherently bad. It can actually benefit you, and psychologists call this “eustress.” This is the stress of anticipation, stress that lacks fear and does not negatively affect your body.

Stress as a trigger

A stress-induce asthma attack stems from the anxiety stress produces. When responsibilities at home or work produce stress, it means you feel overwhelmed by tasks, thereby making you feel anxious. Moreover, since those with asthma already have sensitive lungs, anxiety produces a shortness of breath that in turn can cause a flare-up.

Although you cannot completely eliminate stress from your life, you can manage it, making it less of a factor in worsening your condition.

Managing stress-induced asthma

It is important to manage stress effectively. After all, stress can affect your body in more ways than you think. Moreover, for those with asthma, stress can complicate the condition significantly. Apply these tips to fight stress and relax before an asthma attack occurs.

Stay active and exercise

Research shows that exercise can reduce stress and provide a sense of well-being. It makes your mind and body feel renewed. It is about moderation, starting slow with an adequate warm-up and focusing on what is happening to your body. If necessary, your allergy physician may recommend pre-treatment with your rescue inhaler 15 minutes prior to exercise.

There are also many exercises for people with asthma, so do not feel like your condition is limiting you in any way. You can still work up a sweat, and burn fat as well as someone without asthma. You just need to be wise about what your lungs can undergo and exercise accordingly.

Controlled breathing and meditation

For asthmatics, learning proper breathing techniques is not just about managing stress. Anxiety levels increase during an asthma attack which can in turn worsen your symptoms.

Deep breathing, relaxation, and meditation can help reduce stress levels and prepare you to stay calm when you experience an attack.

Getting a good night’s sleep

Insomnia and restless sleep is common while under stress. You wake up feeling worse and feeling prone to reacting (or overreacting) to every little thing. When stress negatively affects your sleep cycles, you do not achieve REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep. REM sleep assists your brain in learning, memory, and emotional health.

For those with asthma, poor sleep can be a way of life, but regular sleep habits can improve your circumstance. Indeed, sleep allows the body to heal itself mentally and physically, so you should prioritize a good night’s sleep as a means of managing your asthma.

For more information

Do not let asthma control you. If you deal with stress-induced asthma or experience an increase in asthma attacks as a result of anxiety or stress, then contact Arkansas Allergy & Asthma today at 501-227-5210 to schedule a visit.