Managing Daily Activities

When living with lung cancer, you will sometimes feel short of breath and very tired, and find that you cannot do all the things you could before. These symptoms will affect your lifestyle, your mood, and may even affect your ability to carry out some day-to-day routines. The good news is that there are simple changes that you can make that will let you save your time and energy for the activities that you really enjoy and love to do. It is essentially a common-sense approach to living. It will help you maintain control over your life and activities, rather than letting the symptoms decide what you can and cannot do. Use the steps outlined below to discover which activities you can do and what sort of schedule you can keep. You do not have to do this alone. Work with your family or caregiver to see what will work best for you.

Examine your lifestyle. Walk through a typical day and list the activities that you find difficult and the ones that seem to worsen your symptoms. For example, bending to reach low surfaces, or standing or walking for a certain period of time.

Identify problem activities. Review the activities you have just listed and try to find a common theme. For example, activities that cause you to hurry, like rushing to pick up the phone; or a time of day when you feel more tired.

Alter your environment. For example, place your phone near areas where you tend to spend the most time, or place things within easy reach so that you do not have to strain to get them. Use self-care equipment. For example, if you find it hard to stay standing while you shower, get an adjustable bath chair or bench.

Pace yourself. Give yourself enough time to complete a task or activity. Do not rush or feel pressured to keep up with others. Be forgiving of yourself. Learn your tolerance for activities like sitting, standing, walking, and talking. If you can recognize your abilities and limitations, you will know when to stop before you become too tired or short of breath.

Eliminate unnecessary tasks. Plan ahead. Organize supplies and your work space to cut down on extra trips. If you store items on the same floor or room as the area in which they will be used most often, you will minimize unnecessary walking or stair-climbing. You can also do several tasks in a row in one area before you move on to the next.

Ask for and accept help. Your friends and family want to help and support you, but may be unsure about what they can do for you in particular. Talk to them and make a plan together.

Save your energy. Lung cancer and its treatments can make you feel extremely tired. During this time, it is okay to scale back your activities and say no to things. Save your energy for what you really enjoy.

Set priorities. Look at your activities for the day and put them in order of importance. It is important not to spread yourself too thin.

Create schedules. Plan each day and organize your week to include only what you can realistically accomplish. For example, alternate difficult tasks with light tasks, schedule your rest periods, and consider the best time of day for your activities, including social activities and visiting with friends.

Have something to look forward to. When you make your schedule, try to include daily or weekly activities that you really love—perhaps a weekly dinner, a game night, a hobby, or spending time with a loved one. Looking forward to an activity may make you feel more energetic, or provide a welcome distraction.

Modify your routines gradually. Start slow and easy; and then see if you can do a little more each day. If you cannot, know that this is completely okay. If you feel tired or unwell after making a change to your routine, do a little less for a day or so

For a downloadable infosheet on how to manage daily activities, please visit