This Holiday Time: Activities That Put You First

Posted on December 01, 2020   |   
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This blog post was written by Katie Keating, RN, MS, patient advocate

Do you feel misunderstood with your concerns and fears about your chronic lung disease and the coronavirus? Do other people compare their current lockdown experiences to yours?

For many NTM/bronchiectasis patients, our lung diseases are invisible; the COVID-19 virus is also invisible. The coronavirus can spread like wildfire before a person exhibits symptoms.

Family and friends may not understand our fears and concerns since they do not live with a chronic lung disorder and may not understand the increased risks that people with chronic diseases confront amid the added challenge of a killer virus. But as our country continues to face the limited social interaction of this pandemic, the coronavirus may give the general public better insight into — and understanding of — what patients with chronic illness deal with.

For example, many of us have lived “quarantined” to a certain degree for years; I know that I have. I can recall, more than a few times, declining an invitation for coffee with someone who casually mentioned on the phone that they are recovering from a cold or that their child is home from school with the strep throat. Our “normal” is not the same as everyone else’s – whether you’re thinking of pre-COVID times or even now more so than ever.

When it comes to the upcoming holiday season we must be assertive and protect ourselves, even if that means not hosting others or attending a gathering at someone else’s home . Learn to say “no” now so that you can say “yes” later. Don’t become a victim of the present circumstances, become a victor. You are the only one who will be enduring the challenges if you do become ill.

In the meantime as we await for a vaccine and more therapies in the pipeline to become available, here are some suggestions of things you CAN do to feel more in control of your circumstances and put yourself first. It’s not selfish; it’s smart.

Purchase a pulse oximeter, blood pressure machine and thermometer if you do not already have one. A pulse oximeter can alert you if your oxygen levels are changing and it is always wise to know your regular blood pressure readings. Symptoms of COVID often mimic other health issues.

Try to adhere to a schedule and do something meaningful each day to derive a sense of purpose. A simple change of clothes can make all the difference. A few safe and emotionally rewarding ways to spend time are listed below:

  • Sign up for an online course and do a bit of work each day. Follow online forums about your hobbies or interests.
  • Initiate a walking club in your neighborhood, church, or synagogue. It’s a great way to get outdoors, socially distance, and safely interact with people outside of your family. As an added benefit, exercise boosts your immune function and helps the body use up excess stress hormones.
  • Review all of the questions on BronchandNTM360social site as well as other resources. It may take some time to absorb all the information and be able to apply your newly acquired knowledge. Knowledge is power!
  • Make a grateful list. Take five minutes and journal three things you are grateful for every day. Evidence exists on the positive health benefits of gratitude.
  • Provide yourself with a little TLC. Listen to music- it has therapeutic effects on the brain and body.
  • Mix up your exercise routine. Try weights and high-intensity exercise instead of strict cardio. Other options are yoga, dancing, and tai chi
  • Practice mindfulness-there are many options and tutorials on how to practice
  • Start meditating-there are many guided meditation apps and videos

Share how you are feeling with someone you trust. Try to identify what exactly is bothering you. Acknowledge what you are feeling and try to counter it with a positive statement. Seek professional help if needed. One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is that Medicare now covers telehealth visits. See . Other Mental Health Association COVID-19 resources can be found at, and National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): 1-800-950-NAMI (6264).

Eat smart. Poor diets full of processed foods, grains, sugars, and chemicals put a tremendous stress on the body. I was a soda junkie at one point in time; I drank it to give me an energy boost. I now regret it since it can wreak havoc the gastrointestinal/ Genito-urinary systems. Focus on getting your nutrients from fresh, real foods in as close to their natural form and source as possible. Be sure to get enough good fats, too. The body also needs quality fats to produce, use, and store vitamin D, a necessary nutrient for immune function.

Get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the most important steps in stress reduction, the body’s natural time for restoration and removal of toxins. To help you get that needed sleep, one hour before bed, write down the things that are causing you anxiety and make plans for what you might do the next day to reduce your worry. It will free up your mind and energy to move into deep and restful sleep.

I hope that you can engage in some of the activities listed above. I continue to envision working on my bucket list once we get to the other side of this challenge, the other end of the rainbow where skies are blue. Positivity, as hard as it may be at this time, boosts our immune systems. One day at a time. New therapies are in the pipelines, more scientific research has been done. Stay at home, stay safe, and use all the infection precautions possible.

Additional resources:

The COPD Foundation advises that before you make any changes to your medication or therapies that you first consult with your doctor.