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When you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), daily activities can be a challenge. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and increased mucus, may make it difficult to get things done like dressing, household chores, and other day-to-day tasks. You also might have trouble sleeping, which could add to the problem. However, you can improve your quality of life by making changes to your daily routine.

Making a Plan to Deal With COPD

Because you have a chronic lung disease, you may use more energy to get things done. It’s important to be as efficient as possible. Planning your time can help you save your strength.

Try to schedule important activities for the time of day you feel best. It’s common for people with COPD to feel worse in the morning. Make sure you allow for time for rest between activities.

Part of planning is deciding what’s most important to get done. Tips to help you set priorities include:

  • Ask yourself whether you can simplify the task. You don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them.
  • Decide what you need to do now and what can wait.
  • Ask someone to help you with the task, or to do it for you.

It’s also important to pace yourself. In addition to resting between activities, you can break things down into smaller steps and do them one at a time. 

Starting Your Day With COPD

If your symptoms are worse in the morning, getting ready may be difficult. Try to lay out your clothes ahead of time – when you have more energy ­– and to arrange any toiletries you’ll need close to the sink. Remember:

  • A shower can be easier to navigate than a bath.
  • Make sure air circulates in your bathroom to remove steam, which will ease your breathing.
  • If shower spray on your face worsens your symptoms, lower the showerhead.
  • Sit down to wash.
  • An electric razor requires less effort than shaving with a manual razor.
  • A small sponge may be easier to wring out than a washcloth.
  • If you’re very tired after a shower, you can put on a robe and rest for a few minutes before drying off.
  • A travel hair dryer is lighter and easier to use. You also might want to choose a hairstyle that’s simple to maintain.

Consider a quick cleanup in the morning and save your shower for later in the day when you have more stamina.

Dressing can be less tiring if you use some of these techniques:

  • Sit down to dress as much as possible.
  • Choose clothes – loose fitting, stretch fabrics – that are easy to put on. Wear slip-on shoes.
  • Rest as you need to.
  • Assistive devices – for instance, that help you reach things or pull up socks – can be a big help.

Managing COPD Around the House

If you pace yourself and don’t try to do everything at once, you’ll have an easier time with chores at home.

  • Get a lightweight vacuum cleaner.
  • Ask for help making the bed, which can use up a lot of energy. You also can break it down into smaller tasks, resting in between.
  • Avoid scented cleaning products and plug-in air fresheners, which can irritate your lungs.
  • Use a damp cloth to wipe down surfaces, to avoid spreading dust.

Doing laundry requires lifting and bending, which worsens your shortness of breath. If you have to bend down, inhale beforehand and exhale as you bend. Follow the same principle with reaching – inhale before you reach, exhale as you reach.

Try these other tips to make the chore easier:

  • Used a wheeled cart to move laundry.
  • Use a “grabber” tool to pick things up off the floor or get things down from high shelves.
  • Sit down while you iron.
  • Think twice about drying clothes outside on a line. In spring and summer, clothes drying outside might collect pollen, which can worsen your breathing problems.

Getting Around the Kitchen With COPD

Good nutrition is an important part of managing your condition. Here are some ways to make food shopping and cooking easier:

  • Consider using a grocery delivery or pickup service, if available in your area.
  • Chop vegetables all at once and store for later use, divide snacks into individual portions. You’ll need to clean up only once that way. 
  • Prepare several meals at once when you’re having a good day.
  • Organize your kitchen so that things you need often are close together and easy to reach.
  • Sit down while you cook.
  • Slide heavy items like pans rather than lifting them.
  • For days when you’re too tired to cook, have premade items you can heat easily in the microwave.

Going Out When You Have COPD

Researchers found that those with COPD sometimes fear their symptoms make them a burden to others, which caused them to stay home. This can lead to isolation. Isolation is a factor in anxiety and depression, which in turn can make you feel worse and land you in the hospital more often.

These tips may make it easier for you to leave the house:

  • Plan and organize your shopping trips to cut down on extra steps.
  • Use a wheeled cart to help you transport your shopping. Don’t carry heavy items.
  • In winter, wear a scarf over your mouth when you’re outside. This will keep cold air out of your lungs and make breathing easier.
  • If your outing includes stairs, remember to inhale while standing on the stair and exhale as you step up. Use the same technique when you go down stairs: inhale while standing, exhale as you step down.
  • You may want to wear a mask to limit the impact of air pollution and other lung irritants.
  • A walker can give you support as you move, and one with a seat will provide you with a place to sit and rest.
  • If you’ve been out during a heavy pollen season, wipe down your hair with a damp cloth when you come home, and leave coats and shoes near the door. This will avoid spreading pollen throughout your house.

Show Sources

Photo Credit: gpointstudio / Getty Images


International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: “To live a life with COPD – the consequences of symptom burden.”

National Jewish Hospital: “10 Tips for Managing COPD.”

Will Rogers Institute: “Managing Your Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).”

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland: “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Tips for Daily Living.”

UK National Health Service: “Living Well with COPD.”

Pulmonary Education and Research Foundation: “Life Hacks for the COPD Patient.”

European Respiratory Review: “Depression and anxiety in patients with COPD.”