Managing stress

Stress or anxiety is a major problem for people with respiratory illness. There is nothing so frightening as feeling unable to get enough air into to the lungs. People may feel that they are  suffocating.

Stress / anxiety leads to reduced activity for fear of breathlessness and a poor ability to control the breathing pattern.  Stress disturbs sleep patterns and affects appetite.

  • Learning to control stress is a major part of lifestyle change. If stress becomes a major factor, pulmonary rehabilitation sessions can be adapted to focus on stress / anxiety reduction. Being with others, especially while exercising, may help by giving support and reassurance.
  • People experience stress in different ways. Some by internalising their feelings and worrying. Others by showing outward signs such as restlessness, irritability, feeling overwhelmed or feelings of sadness or depression. There can also be physical signs of stress, nausea, muscle pain, headaches and so on.
  • Some patients/clients with chronic anxiety may need further help from a psychology service. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy can be helpful.1
  • Some patients/clients benefit from mindfulness training. This is a technique which allows and encourages the person to pay attention to the present moment and block out all other worries, concerns and thoughts. Like meditation, mindfulness is a skill which must be learned and practiced regularly to gain most benefit. It can be done anywhere at virtually any time.2
  • Some people benefit from learning relaxation techniques. (link to relaxation sound clouds from MLML).

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This audio is 27 minutes 25 seconds.
Voiceover: Louise Mason, Occupational Therapist, NHS Lothian.


This audio is 13 minutes 19 seconds.
Voiceover: Grainne O’Brien, Specialist Psychology Practitioner, NHS Lothian.


The following sound clip will talk you through a mindfulness session for just 6 minutes 44 seconds.
Voiceover: Dave Bertin Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland.


NHS inform

  1. Healthy living: Mental wellbeing: Therapy and counselling: Talking therapies explained
  2. Healthy living: Mental wellbeing: Five steps to mental wellbeing