If there’s one thing that we’ve learned from the past couple of months, it’s that self-isolation is never as easy as it seems. While we all acknowledge the importance of maintaining proper social distancing in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, we also need to take the time to consider the negative effects of spending so much time alone.
Someone with a very active lifestyle may enjoy the self-quarantine because it gives them time to wind down and collect their thoughts. But for others, such as those with COPD or other chronic conditions, the quarantine can be a nightmare. Rather than being able to get outside and exercise their freedom, these people are being left at home to cope with their disease alone.
The good news is that there are ways to remedy this. With modern technology and some creativity, it is possible to regain some of the privileges we once had without having to venture out into the world. In this post, we’re going to take a look at 7 different COPD-friendly activities to occupy your thoughts until the COVID-19 situation blows over.
The Importance of Staying Busy
Many people looked forward to the quarantine initially, believing it would give them an excuse to stay in their pajamas all-day or get caught up on their favorite show. But reality hit these people hard once they found out that it’s not so easy to make it through the day with a lack of things to occupy their thoughts.
Unfortunately, self-isolation isn’t a new concept by any means; people have suffered from loneliness and social isolation for decades, and it’s taken a significant toll on peoples’ general happiness and well-being. According to a study published in the Oxford Academic Journal, 24 percent of older adults (65+ years) were considered “socially isolated.” Ultimately, this puts people at a higher risk of experiencing loneliness and other related conditions like anxiety and depression.
While hobbies and other day-to-day activities won’t completely eliminate loneliness, they will help to occupy your thoughts in your downtime. You might still have friends, family members, or caretakers who still come to visit you even during quarantine which can help combat some of the loneliness you may experience.
Another reason hobbies are so important is that they take your mind off your disease. If you maintain a sedentary lifestyle for too long, you’ll start to focus more on the negative outcomes of your disease. Eventually, this can lead to a vicious feedback cycle that causes you to over-exaggerate the severity of your condition. Not only could this take a toll on your mental health, but it could cause you to make irrational decisions that you wouldn’t otherwise make.
Last but certainly not least, hobbies help you to grow as a person. No matter your age or health condition, hobbies can provide you with an outlet to express your interests and learn. What’s more, it will give you more to talk about once you’re finally able to start reconnecting with people after the situation with the coronavirus starts to slow down.
Create a List of Priorities
One thing you should do before learning about COPD-friendly activities is to start working on a priority list. For many people, being at home more often can throw off your sense of direction and even cause you to lose sight of priorities that you used to keep.
Many people have trouble maintaining a healthy sleep schedule. If you’re inside more often or you’re not exercising as frequently, your circadian rhythm could be completely thrown out of whack making it increasingly difficult to follow the sleep schedule that you used to.
If you’re concerned about this, try prioritizing hobbies that get you moving and allow you to get a healthy amount of sunlight each day. In turn, you’ll experience less restless nights and you’ll be able to stay focused on things that you’re trying to accomplish. As you read through the following list, take note of things that are important to you and structure your hobbies accordingly.
Reading is quite possibly one of the most important things you can do while in quarantine. It’s one of the best ways to pass the time, foster creativity, and learn about something new. According to researchers, reading regularly can even increase survival rates among adults and the elderly.
Possibly the greatest benefit of reading a physical book is that it gets people away from their screens. For the past several decades, many people have set aside physical media in favor of more convenient digital options either via their smartphone, computer, tablet, or an e-book device like the Kindle.
But regardless of the popularity of e-books and audiobooks, physical books still remain the most popular choice for most readers. Simply put, people feel more satisfied with reading a real book because it feels more authentic and relaxing, especially when you don’t have to deal with things like computer glitches or malfunctions.
According to a study published by BMC, time spent using digital devices is associated with sleep disturbances and a higher risk factor for mental health conditions. What’s more, people who used mobile devices saw even worse outcomes. In other words, reading a book on your phone or Kindle could be even worse for your health than reading one on the computer.
Fortunately, physical books provide you with all the benefits of reading without the added risks of using a digital device. According to a study done by the University of Sussex, reading can reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent! Considering that stress is estimated to contribute to up to 60 percent of all disease, this is an extremely important factor to consider when starting a new quarantine hobby.
If you’re someone who prefers reading online articles over novels, consider printing them before reading them. This way you can find someplace comfortable to read it and avoid spending too much time on your computer.
2.) Games and Puzzles
If you want something that will keep your mind busy but aren’t much of a reader, puzzles and games are a great option too. According to Cognitive Vitality, crossword puzzles and other activities help to build cognitive reserve. This, in turn, allows someone to maintain normal cognition avoiding common conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Like reading, puzzles and games can be done without the use of a digital device. Many crossword puzzles and similar games can be found in the back of magazines and you can even find entire books full of different types of games at your local book store or grocery store. This is enough to keep most people entertained for weeks or months on end.
Another great benefit of crossword puzzles is that they can help you maintain your vocabulary. There are crossword puzzles out there for just about any subject you can think. What’s more, studies have shown that the best way to memorize vocabulary is to write it down, especially when it’s written in context like with crossword puzzles.
As a COPD patient, it’s important to keep your mind sharp and reduce anxiety and stress as much as possible. People who take their mental health seriously are able to more easily follow through with their treatment routine including maintaining an exercise routine, healthy diet, and medications.
3.) Practice or Listen to Music
The concept of music as a form of healing therapy has existed for centuries, however, it didn’t become a formal profession until the 1900s. Today, music therapy is used in both formal and informal settings in order to aid in treating mental health, cognitive, emotional, social, and even physical issues. While some people may question the efficacy of music therapy, it’s a type of treatment that has a long history of research backing it up.
Another misconception about music therapy is that you need a professional in order to benefit from it. This couldn’t be farther from the truth as many people use music as a form of self-care to remedy stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental conditions. And the great news is that it’s very easy to get started. All you need is a music program such as iTunes or Spotify and speakers or a pair of earbuds.
Harvard Health sites a number of studies showing the positive effects of music on health. For COPD patients, stress reduction, mood improvement, and increased movement are among the most important. One study they mention tested the stress-reducing effects of music on patients before and after surgery. It concluded that patients who listened to music were less likely to need calming medication than those who didn’t.
Another study from 2011 found that music therapy can aid in preventing falls for people over the age of 65. Falling is a serious problem for seniors because as we age, our motor skills and function diminishes significantly. This problem is amplified in COPD patients who suffer from difficulty breathing and frequent exacerbations. This study concluded that walking and performing other tasks in time with music can limit falls by 54 percent.
The last study that Harvard Health sites has to do with the effects of music on mood. A 2006 study found that adults with chronic pain, such as symptoms from COPD and other lung diseases, experienced a reduction in disability, depression, and pain. Additionally, a 2009 meta-analysis discovered that music can reduce the effects of sleep disorders and promote quality sleep.
The important thing to draw from these studies is that you don’t need to work with a music therapist in order to benefit from the healing effects of music. Simply putting together a playlist of relaxing or uplifting music and listening to it for an hour or two a day can have substantial therapeutic benefits.
If you’re looking to engage more with the music, you can even try picking up a COPD-friendly instrument. Believe it or not, there are a lot of instruments that are great for COPD patients. For example, the harmonica is often recommended by medical professionals because it can help improve your lung capacity. The harmonica differs from other wind instruments like the trumpet, clarinet, or flute because it doesn’t require a great deal of air support. Another benefit is that it doesn’t weigh very much so you can easily carry it around with you wherever you go.
A couple of years ago, we wrote a great article that goes into detail about using music therapy to treat COPD. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested in learning more.
4.) Practice Tai Chi
When you think of “martial arts” you probably think of fighting methods such as judo, karate, or kendo. However, martial arts deals with a lot more than combat; it also has to do with mastering the mind and body. For someone with COPD, martial arts prove especially useful in learning to control breathing, master your motor functions, and gain more control over your thoughts and feelings.
Tai Chi is a martial arts discipline that originated in ancient China. It’s often referred to as “meditation in motion” because it applies some of the same principles as traditional meditation but adds additional components such as basic motor functions, balance, and breathing. Tai Chi is beneficial for all ages, but it’s especially embraced by older generations.
One of the great things about tai chi is that it can be done just about anywhere. If you’re confined to your home, all you need to do is clear some space in the living room or family room. It’s also a good idea to practice Tai Chi on the carpet because hardwood floors and stone floors can be slippery. You can even go outside and practice in your front or back yard, just make sure you’re maintaining good social distancing from your neighbors.
This study published in the Chest Journal examined the efficacy of Tai Chi in treating COPD. It found that, after twelve weeks, Tai Chi can be just as effective as pulmonary rehabilitation at improving muscle strength and reducing COPD symptoms such as breathlessness and fatigue. These particular participants used a form of Tai Chi known as the 24-form Yang, however, other forms of Tai Chi are proven to be effective as well.
You may be wondering, “how can I start Tai Chi?” While it’s normally advised that you join a Tai Chi group where you can learn from a professional trainer what to do, current circumstances do not permit this. Instead, it’s recommended that you use online training videos which will teach you the basics. The United States Tai Chi Community is also a great place to connect with other people and ask any questions that you may have about this martial art.
We wrote a great article about using Tai Chi to improve your COPD symptoms. You can find it here if you’re interested.
5.) Journaling and Scrapbooking
What better way to spend the quarantine than getting caught up on your journaling and scrapbooking? Admittedly, these hobbies aren’t for everyone. Some people like to document everything they do while other people prefer to tell their stories through spoken words rather than written words or pictures. But as the saying goes — you never know until you try it.
One thing about journaling and scrapbooking is that they take a lot of time, so if you’re interested in the idea, there’s really no better time to get involved than right now. They also have a lot of therapeutic effects that many people will find well worth pursuing even people who don’t typically enjoy writing or arts and crafts. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, journaling is an effective means of reducing stress, coping with depression, and managing anxiety.
Another reason to invest time in journaling and scrapbooking is that it can be a creative outlet. As a COPD patient, it’s easy to get caught up in your daily routine of pulmonary rehabilitation, diet management, and breathing exercises. However, this doesn’t really provide you with a good opportunity to express your creativity and create something that you can be proud of. Journaling and scrapbooking can be very rewarding because there’s no right or wrong way to do them.
Lastly, these two activities give you the opportunity to provide something special for your family’s future generations. For example, if you create a scrapbook, it’s something that you can hand down to your children and they can pass down to their children when they’re old enough. This is the perfect way to create a lasting memory of your life experiences.
Cooking is another great way to pass the time while in quarantine. Whether you’ve spent your whole life cooking or you’re a beginner, there’s never been a better time to start. The benefit of cooking your own food is that it’s a great form of moderate exercise that will keep you on your feet and improve your COPD symptoms.
Another benefit of cooking is that you will know exactly what’s in your food. If you buy prepackaged food from the grocery store or eat out often, it’s hard to tell exactly what nutrients you’re putting in your body. Oftentimes, people are too afraid to turn over the packaging and read the long list of ingredients that they’re consuming, so it’s best to just avoid this altogether.
One thing to take note of while you’re cooking is to always put your safety first. Certain foods may produce a lot of fumes or smoke when you cook them and overcooking food can lead to the same results. This could lead to a flare-up in your respiratory symptoms or worse, a COPD exacerbation that could put you in the hospital. Take note of this before you start and recruit the help of a loved one if you don’t feel comfortable.
For more helpful information on cooking with COPD, check out this post.
7.) Become a COPD Advocate
While there are certainly a lot of downsides to technology, one of the greatest benefits is that it enables people to stay connected anywhere they are in the world. While most people are staying inside their homes for the foreseeable future, we don’t have to worry about decades of COPD advocacy going to waste because a lot of this work can continue through the internet.
Now more than ever it’s imperative that COPD patients let people know the importance of COPD research, treatment, and funding. In crucial times like these, politicians and community leaders are working to determine the best place to allocate resources to help the greatest number of people. Since COPD is a leading chronic illness in the United States and COPD patients are at such a high risk of serious COVID-19 symptoms, our voices deserve to be heard.
There are so many ways to get involved like the COPD Foundation, The American Lung Association, and a variety of other COPD organizations. You can even join COPD Facebook groups or start your own blog in order to tell your own story of living and coping with COPD. You can rest assured that if your thoughts are being heard, you’re contributing to the community as a whole.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a COPD advocate, read our post on staying active in the COPD community while at home.
The coronavirus has taken a serious toll on the country. COPD patients need to take care to follow all safety regulations set forth by the World Health Organization (WHO) and shelter in place as much as possible in order to avoid getting sick. While you’re likely already missing going out and exploring the world or visiting friends, there are plenty of things you can be doing in the meantime to keep yourself occupied and healthy.
Try some of the hobbies above and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. If you’re in the market for a portable oxygen concentrator like the Inogen One G5, don’t hesitate to fill out the contact form at the side of the page and one of our respiratory specialists will reach out to you to answer any questions you may have.