How slowing down helps me manage fatigue with COPD

A columnist begins to understand that 'slow and steady wins the race'

Caroline Gainer avatar

by Caroline Gainer |

Share this article:

Share article via email
Main banner for Caroline Gainer's column,

Many of us with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) struggle with fatigue. I haven’t resolved the issue to my satisfaction, so I continue to seek ways to cope. My latest solution is to try to be more like the tortoise than the hare.

In my early years of school, I was like the tortoise because I didn’t complete my work as fast as the other students. The fear of being the last to finish a project led me to start racing like the hare at an early age. I always tried to work quickly.

I carried this “hurry up” mindset into my adult life. When I was teaching, I’d practice doing things as fast as I could each August so that I’d be ready for the new school year.

After retiring from teaching and becoming a jewelry coordinator, I tried to embrace the tortoise in me, but that didn’t last long. I read once that your gait tells others much about your health. I had issues, yes, but did I want anyone to be able to tell by how I walked? The answer was a resounding no, so it was back to the pace of the hare.

Recommended Reading
Main banner for Caroline Gainer's column,

Staying positive and busy are good for my COPD and mental health

My friend Jimmy, who also has COPD, often addresses the idea that slowing down can help us survive longer in his Facebook posts. Although I’d give him a thumbs-up and say I agreed, I’d still try to race through tasks.

Unfortunately, the problem with being the hare is that it adds to my fatigue. I’ll get so pumped up that it’s difficult for me to wind down and go to sleep at night. Although I practice the breathing exercises recommended by the Sleep Foundation, sleep evades me, adding to my daytime fatigue.

Embracing a slower pace

I mentioned in a past column that I’m a list-maker. The longer the list, the greater my feeling of accomplishment when I check everything off. Lately, I’ve been trying to alternate the difficult and easy jobs on my lists, as I explained in another column, because it helps me pace myself and better manage fatigue.

For instance, my to-do list might include “finish cleaning my bedroom” followed by “water indoor plants.” To finish cleaning my bedroom, in this case, means dusting and running the sweeper — a labor-intensive chore for me. I water the plants next because this task isn’t as demanding. This alternation does seem to help me conserve my energy.

It’s amazing how tasks feel less arduous when I complete them more slowly. I must continually remind myself of the importance of slowing down. Hopefully, this speed will become natural after a while.

I’m making progress in my quest to become the tortoise, but I still have quite a distance to go.

Note: COPD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of COPD News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.