Request Appointment

Coping with Shortness of Breath: Controlling Stress

When you have lung problems, it may be hard for you to breathe. Stress can cause shortness of breath. Learn to relax and control stress to prevent shortness of breath and avoid panic.

Panic cycle and how it affects breathing

When anxiety takes over

When you feel short of breath, your neck, shoulder, and chest muscles tense. You become anxious and begin to breathe faster. Your breathing muscles tire and trap air in your lungs. Your chest may feel tight. Anxiety increases and you may start to panic.

Stop Panic before it starts

The key to controlling panic is to break the cycle before it starts. When you are becoming short of breath do the following:

  • Sit, relax your arms and shoulders.

  • Lean forward, resting your upper body on your forearms.

  • Breathe in slowly through your nose while counting to 2.

  • Hold your lips together as if yo are trying to whistle or blow out a candle.

  • Breathe out slowly and gently through your pursed lips while counting to 4.

  • Repeat these steps as necessary.

Man sitting on couch reading newspaper.

Learn to relax

Control stress by avoiding things that trigger stress and by relaxing when you start feeling tense. Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and try the following:

  • Picture yourself in an ideal place, doing something you enjoy. Stay in that place until you feel relaxed.

  • Slowly tense, then relax, each part of your body. Start with your toes and work up to your scalp. As you breathe in, tighten the muscles. Keep them tight for several seconds. Then relax as you breathe out.

  • You can also relax by doing tai chi or yoga, praying, meditating, or listening to music or relaxation tapes.

Talk with your health care provider about how youare feeling. It's important for your provider to understand what is going on and how it is affecting your life.


Was this helpful?

Yes No

Tell us more.

Check all that apply.

Last question: How confident are you filling out medical forms by yourself?

Not at all A little Somewhat Quite a bit Extremely

Thank You!

 Visit Other Fairview Sites 
(c) 2012 Fairview Health Services. All rights reserved.