14 Tips for Conserving Energy with COPD During the Holidays

Health Professional
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The holidays are upon us, and if you’re living with COPD, taking part in all the activity might seem like way too much to tackle. Here are some tips to help you conserve that precious energy – and breathe – so you can have a joyful holiday season.



Which events do you really want to attend, and which ones are actually more an obligation to make someone else happy? Do what means the most to you and politely tell your friends and loved ones that you have only so much breath to go around. Maybe you can do something fun with them after the first of the year when life is not so hectic.


Position yourself

If you’re at a family gathering and you want to help but don’t have a lot of energy or endurance, ask if there is something you can do while sitting down. Maybe you can arrange a veggie or deli platter, fold napkins, or wrap gifts. If you have trouble standing for an extended period of time, don’t volunteer to do the dishes. Rather, you might sit at the table and dry them.


Plan ahead

Being in a hurry is probably one of biggest breath-robbers for people with COPD! Give yourself plenty of time to get ready, gather your goodies, and arrive at your destination with breath to spare.


Place yourself

Don’t seat yourself near triggers such as cooking fumes, steamy pots, scented candles, or stuffy, overly warm areas. Sit where there is more likely to be moving air, near a fan or a cracked-open door or window.


Pack it and pull it

If you have gifts or other items to bring along, tote them in a rolling cart. If you don’t have a cart, leave your packages and potluck in the car and ask a more able family member to go get them for you. If neither of these is an option, pack your stuff into a backpack or a tote bag, preferably with a long enough strap to go over your head and across your chest. It really helps to carry a load close to your body instead of in your hands.


Avoid scented candles

If you're going to a party or gathering where you expect there might be scented candles, call ahead and gently ask your host if they would mind not lighting them when you're there. Explain that the scent irritates your lungs and you won't be able to appreciate the party if the candles take over your ability to breathe.


Park close or get dropped off

Don't find yourself in a position in which you have to walk farther than you're comfortably able to walk, especially in the cold air. If you're riding with somebody, ask if they can drop you off at the door. If you're the one driving, call ahead and ask if you can drive right up to the door and someone at the party (perhaps a responsible teen driver) can serve as a valet.


Don't eat too much

All those goodies are tempting, but overeating can expand your stomach to the point that it will push up on your already compromised diaphragm. Want to try everything? You can. Just take little bits and bites.


Avoid nasty germs

Stay away from small children who are coughing and sneezing. They can shake off a cold virus. You can't! And at their young age they don't know enough to cover their mouth and nose. As uppity as it may sound, avoid shaking hands and kisses on the lips. The Hollywood "air kiss" works just fine! When you've weathered the winter without an exacerbation, you'll be happy you did...or didn't!


Cover up

Wear a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth in cold air to keep your lungs from going into spasm, causing an uncontrollable cough and more shortness of breath.



You don't have to do all the work! Involve your guests and assign tasks. Children, and yes, even teens, are usually very willing to help - and be shown some appreciation for doing so. It will enrich their lives to learn a little bit about your physical limitation and it will make them feel proud to know they've helped out.


Pump it up

Although it might be tempting to skip pulmonary rehab class or routine exercise, keep in mind that exercise helps reduce stress and also burns off the extra calories you’re likely to consume. Besides that, it’s fun to celebrate the holidays with your friends at pulmonary rehab. If you absolutely don’t have the time or energy for aerobic exercise, at least do your stretches and strength training. It will keep you feeling good, and flexible.


It's their problem

Don't beat yourself up over what you might have done to cause damage to your lungs. You're not the only person, the first person, or the last person in the group, who may have done something that is not good for their health. You're doing the very best you can right now to be healthy, and if somebody can't deal with that, it’s their problem.


Enjoy the moments

Live in the moment. If you're breathing well right now, smile, laugh, and enjoy the party! Please don't spend your energy worrying about tomorrow. This very day - the time we're in right now - will never come along again.