“The early months of the year make up my time to rest and reflect after the bustling chaos of the holiday period. Then, as the year becomes warmer and more inviting, I make sure to have my list of goals ready and waiting for me.”
It’s never too late to start lifestyle changes that’ll benefit your asthma. Beki Tovey shares her 5 top tips to get motivated and feel healthier for the rest of 2022.
Is it summer already? We're halfway through 2022 now - after the unrest of 2020 and 2021, I think many of us welcomed this year with open arms.
But now the excitement of a new year has faded, it's time to pause, step back, and assess where we are. Did you make any resolutions this year? Have you kept them up?
If not, don't give yourself a hard time. There's so much pressure every January 1st, usually reinforced by all the "New Year, New Me" memes flooding our social media. I understand the symbolism but struggle with the timing. Why would anybody pick January as the month to start brand-new, healthier habits?
It's dark. It's cold. January is often 31 days of ice, rain, and biting winds. Leave my warm bed for an early morning run under flickering street lamps? No thanks.
Instead, January, February, and early March make up my time to rest and reflect after the bustling chaos of the holiday period. How was last year? Did anything good happen? What did I achieve, and what am I most proud of?
What didn't I achieve that I'd like to try this year? Is there anything I could have done more of (or better)? And so on.
Then, as the year becomes warmer and more inviting, I make sure to have my list of goals ready and waiting for me. With nature reawakening now, we feel more inspired to bring newness into our lives.
So, I have my goals ready - do you? If you have asthma, as I do, here are some ideas for how we can make positive, sustainable changes for late spring, 2022.
1. Create/update your Asthma Action Plan
If you haven't got one yet, now's the time to download an asthma action plan. You will need to consult with your GP or respiratory nurse to complete your AAP. Your doctor will have your health records, and they will use that info to make personalised guidelines for the plan.
Asthma Action Plans (AAPs) are helpful because they're tailored specifically to you and your condition; they're not one-size-fits-all. Your AAP will contain a step-by-step guide to managing your asthma.
Asthma Action Plans (AAPs) are helpful because they're tailored specifically to you and your condition; they're not one-size-fits-all. Your AAP will contain a step-by-step guide to managing your asthma. It'll also tell you:
- What to look for if you feel your asthma is getting worse
- When to make an appointment with your healthcare provider
- How to handle an asthma-related emergency
If you already have an AAP, it could be time to update it. Doctors recommend a yearly AAP review. You may need more frequent updates if your medication changes or you're hospitalised due to asthma exacerbations.
Your AAP can also tell others what to do if you have an asthma attack, and tell first-responders what asthma medication you take if you need emergency treatment.
These instructions could save your life or cut down on the severity of an attack, so make sure you take your AAP with you wherever you go.
It's easy to forget your AAP needs an update when life is in full swing, so use this as a reminder. It's always better to be safe than sorry.
2. Keep working on identifying your triggers
Unfortunately, asthma can be pretty unpredictable, making its management a challenge for all of us. We do our best to learn our triggers, and then a new one develops out of nowhere. By the time we've connected the dots and realised what's causing the issue, our respiratory systems have put us through the mill.
Likewise, asthma triggers aren't the same for everybody. Some people can handle pet dander, while others will need to quickly escape from approaching dogs or cats.
During the winter months, my main triggers are cold weather and dust from indoors. In summer, however, my nemesis is pollen. Check out my top tips for exercising with asthma in winter here and my advice for managing hay fever here.
Once you've worked out your asthma triggers, you can start to avoid them (if possible) or find ways to manage your exposure.
3. Get active
"Get fit" is usually at the top of someone's New Year's resolutions list. Some asthmatics, however, think exercising is off the table.
In fact, the opposite is true. Getting your heart rate up and increasing your lung stamina can improve your asthma symptoms. Your immune system will often get a healthy boost, too!
If you're unsure where to start, take it slow and build up. Every bit of movement counts - a gentle 20-minute walk a day can do the world of good. As you get used to walking without stopping, you can switch up terrain (tarmac to grass or sand, for example) and introduce some hills. If you're not keen on running or jogging, did you know that walking on an incline can be as beneficial as running on a flat surface?
Exercise can also induce endorphins - feel-good hormones that ease depression and encourage you to repeat the activity. Find an exercise regime you love and luxuriate in the accompanying mood boost!
NOTE: If you have asthma and want to start any new diet or exercise regime, please discuss any changes beforehand with your doctor.
4. Tick off some mid-year cleaning
If you fancied having a spring clean this year, it's still not too late! In Victorian Britain, a "spring clean" meant wiping away the dust and grime collected over the winter. The tradition originates from when many homes were heated with open fires, which created a lot of ash and soot. As the warmer weather came in, many women could be seen beating their carpets to remove dust and wiping soot from windows.
Some of us may have our own traditions or rituals connected to spring cleaning. Others may just feel more energised with the lighter mornings and evenings. Either way, keeping on top of house cleaning is never a bad thing for us asthmatics.
Dust, for example, is an unsavoury concoction of dirt, bacteria, dead skin cells, hair, clothing fibres, mites, crumbling dead bugs, pollen, and microscopic plastic particles. No one - asthma or not - benefits from being around this detritus.
Some scientists say that prolonged exposure to dust can play havoc on our endocrine system. The hormones in our bodies battle to provide a delicate balance to keep us healthy. Dust, and other endocrine disruptors, throw the balance off when it comes to hormone secretion, transportation, or elimination. Frequent disruption of our endocrine systems has been linked to tumours, fertility problems, birth defects, and other developmental issues.
Start by vacuuming carpets for triggers such as dust, and change your bedding regularly. If you struggle with dampness, dust, and mould, you could also invest in an air purifier or hypoallergenic bedding. Both products may help reduce asthma triggers around the house, but neither will benefit if you neglect other steps to keep your home clean and tidy.
Because carpets can become dust traps, I swapped my downstairs carpets for laminate flooring. These are much easier to clean. Dust and pet hair are much more visible, so I can swoop in when I need and wipe away the debris.
I also like to keep "air-purifying" houseplants in various rooms. Some scientists have debunked the effectiveness of houseplants for better indoor quality. However, I say that a bit of greenery in the home always looks lovely, even if the plants don't serve their original purpose.
5. Have fun!
I'm a firm believer that being wheezy shouldn't stop you from enjoying your life. If there are goals that you want to achieve in 2022, then working towards them should be 100% achievable whether you have asthma or not.
Think about what you'd like to do if asthma didn't hold you back. That could be travelling, achieving a fitness goal, or having your asthma under enough control to spend quality time with family and friends.
The possibilities are endless. Happy Mid-Year - and I believe in you!
NOTE: The information presented is solely for educational purposes, not as specific advice for managing asthma symptoms. Please consult a professional who can apply best practices and appropriate resources to your situation.
NPS-IE-NP-00451 June 2022