Rickie Bishop MCSP SRP
Rickie qualified in 1970 from Bath School of Physiotherapy. After hospital work, she moved to work in a special school in Bexhill-on-Sea where her interest in breathing exercises and rehabilitation for asthma started in 1979 with children. [more]


There are many situations where we use far more effort than necessary to do things, very often out of habit. “I’ve always done it that way!”


There are lots of things to do and many demands placed upon all of us. Breathlessness can limit what you can do and how much you can do.

Prioritising means choosing the most important things that need to be done. What has got to be done today or this week and what can wait until tomorrow or next week?

Planning Once you have prioritised what has got to be done, then you need to make a plan. Make sure that you spread out the more difficult activities and avoid doing them all in one go.

Pacing Work out your best pace for doing each activity and stick to that pace to avoid getting unduly breathless. Make sure to keep up with doing as much as possible at your own pace. Do not try to keep up with other people’s pace, stick to your own.

Some suggestions for saving energy

NB An occupational therapist may be able to help you to obtain useful gadgets and aids for daily tasks

When washing, take your time and sit down if possible. Try using a seat in the bath or shower, and use long handled sponges or brushes to reach the awkward places. If you find it breath-taking to dry yourself after a bath or shower, save yourself the trouble, wrap yourself in two towels or a towel dressing gown and sit down until you have ‘blotted dry’.

When dressing, sit down, take your time, and pause in between each stage. You don’t have to put on everything at once. Choose slightly loose fitting clothes as they are easier to put on and take off. If reaching your feet is difficult, there are useful gadgets to assist with putting on socks or tights. You can choose slip-on shoes or quick Velcro fastenings instead of laces.

When preparing food, sit down to peel vegetables. Be economical in moving around the kitchen and work out good systems for storing frequently used items such as food, crockery and pans to save excessive bending or reaching. Use a trolley with good castors to carry things from one place to another, you can lean on it to rest if necessary!

When shopping, avoid going to the supermarket at busy times like Friday night or Saturday morning, use the shopping trolley to lean on as you go round, and remember that whatever you buy has to be brought into the house so don’t be too ambitious!

In the garden, use a stool to sit and do weeding or forking over. Get someone else to do the mowing if it has become too breathtaking for you. Consider having more hard paved areas and using containers or raised beds to save bending. Use polystyrene as the ‘crocks’ in the bottom of containers, it is lighter than pottery or stones and still provides good drainage.

Housework can be done in small stages. You don’t have to do the whole house on the same day. Use a slightly damp duster to avoid inhaling the dust and just do one room a day. Make sure the vacuum cleaner is not too heavy and only do one room each day. If you are buying a new vacuum cleaner choose the lightest, most efficient filtration system you can afford. Try wearing a mask when changing the bag or emptying the bin to prevent inhalation of dust.

Laundry. Use a lightweight wheeled laundry trolley to take the washing out to the line. Hang the washing out on a line at a comfortable height for you to reach. Rest and breathe smoothly in between each item you peg up. Using the arms above the head is quite tiring and you can expect to be breathless with this sort of task. Sit down to do the ironing and try not to save it all up until there is a mountain to do. Make sure you are not ironing unnecessary items like socks and underwear! So long as they are clean your body will smooth them out when you wear them!

Swallow your pride and make sure to ask for help if you need it. Family, friends and neighbours are pleased to be able to help out, so long as they are not taken for granted.

Support your hands when walking, either by leaning on a trolley or placing them in your pockets. A walking stick is another option for when you stop to rest.

Do not talk while you walk; you need your breathing control for either activity and may not be able to do both at once.

Learn your limits. Do not do an extra 5 minutes; stop just before you are tired.



1. Prioritise – Choose the most important things to be done

2. Plan – Spread out the difficult activities

3. Pace – Find your time limits and stick to them

4. Think about doing things differently