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Achieving the best possible health and well-being for people with COPD involves both effective treatments and changes to some habitual behaviours (sometimes called self-management). The precise behaviour(s) in need of addressing can vary from person to person, but common examples include:

Quitting smoking

Becoming physically active

Regular, correct medication use

Eating well

Changing behaviours is not always easy as many factors influence their continued use and/or difficulty to address. Consider the behaviour of being physically active. Factors that may impact on your activity levels can include:

  1. Personal factors (awareness, motivations, desire to change)
  2. Influence of people around you (support and opinions of family, carers)
  1. Environmental factors (weather, neighbourhood layout, lighting)
  2. Public health messaging (Government campaigns)

“It took me by surprise. I didn’t know what COPD was. I completed a Pulmonary Rehabilitation program which didn’t just teach me exercises, but how to make the lifestyle changes I needed to make. I had to retire early from my job, but am now the passionate president of my volunteer lung support group!”

– Russell, who has COPD

What is self-management in COPD?

Self-management of COPD refers to a person’s ability and actions to successfully manage all necessary aspects of living with their disease. This may include areas such as regularly taking treatments correctly, effectively managing symptoms and dealing with the emotional, social and lifestyle effects of COPD.

Self-management can be a complex equation to get ‘right’ for each person as the reasons underpinning the behaviours are unique to each individual’s circumstances. An approach that helps one person might not help another. Review some of the key actions to take in this COPD checklist.

Effective self-management practices have been shown to improve breathlessness, quality of life and risk of hospital admission. It can also help improve physical and mental health, confidence and social participation.

Behaviour change strategies

Adapting your behaviour is more than a one-time decision to kick bad habits. It’s a complex process involving psychological and social influences and involves navigating many factors when crossing over from intention to action. 

Improving one’s ability to self-manage COPD requires repeated interactions between the individual and skilled healthcare professionals in order to: 

Identify your needs and underpinning beliefs

Create personalised goals

Develop personalised strategies by growing your understanding, motivation and ability

Evaluate and adjust strategies over time

Watch Chris’ powerful testimonial clip about his experience of living with severe COPD.