A is for Asthma, B is for Bullying, C is for Chronic ….. and S is for Stress

Asthma is a common condition affecting the airways of the lower respiratory tract.  The airways can constrict and produce more mucus, thereby limiting the flow of air both in and out of the lungs and causing difficulty breathing.  

It is a chronic condition, often starting in childhood and continuing into adulthood, although some children do “grow out of it” and many adults can start with Asthma later in life.

Asthma is recognized by WHO (Word Health Organisation) as being of major importance as a public health issue[i].  According to latest available statistics,  1 in 12 adults and 1 in 11 children in the UK alone are currently receiving treatment for Asthma, costing the NHS around £1 Billion a year.[ii]  In 2017 more than 1,400 people died from Asthma attacks in the UK, although the  majority of people can manage their symptoms and continue to lead a relatively normal life.

So what is it and what causes it?

Asthma sufferers typically experience wheeziness when breathing,  often highly audible to others, and/or breathlessness; a feeling of tightness across the chest, and coughing. 

As with all diseases, everyone is different and no two people have exactly the same symptomatic experience.

There are different categories of Asthma (seasonal, occupational, severe, brittle, allergic etc) and Asthma attacks can have varying degrees of frequency (daily, nightly, weekly, month, occasional) or severity ( mild, severe). 

Whilst there is no single known cause of Asthma, contributing factors[iii] are understood to be linked to any of the following:

  • Hereditary/genetic predisposition to lung issues
  • Allergic reactions that irritate the airways of the lungs:
    • Indoor allergens (dust, house mites, stuffed furniture, pet hair)
    • Outdoor allergens (pollen, mould)
    • Chemical irritants (cleaning fluids at home, workplace irritants)
    • Air pollution, tobacco smoke
  • Exposure to cold air
  • Strenuous physical exercise
  • Respiratory infections (e.g. common cold, flu)
  • Certain medications (e.g. those for high blood pressure, heart conditions and migraines, including common meds such as aspirin)
  • Certain dietary triggers (e.g. sulfites, preservatives added to certain foods such as wine, beer, dried fruit, processed food)
  • Stress, anxiety and other strong emotional triggers

If I can’t cure it, what can I do to manage it?

Whilst there is no known cure for Asthma, and most people manage their condition with medication in accordance with advice from their Doctor or GP, combined with taking additional prevent measures to help reduce the occurrence of flare-ups.

Your experience of Asthma is unique to YOU, so the more you listen to your body, and really get to know it,  the more information it will give you in return

Taking a pro-active approach to managing your health issues will also help you feel more in control of your health and life overall.  

  • Medication is usually applied using Inhalers but can also be in tablet form. Quick relief medication relaxes the muscles so the airways open up, making it easier to breathe, whereas longer term medication aims to prevent airway inflammation from occurring in the first place.  
  • An Asthma Action Plan is a useful tool you can use to help you stay on top of managing your medicine and remind you (and others in your household)  what to do if your symptoms get worse or what action to take if you have an attack[iv].    If your Doctor or GP hasn’t given you an Action Plan, you can download one from by clicking here:  SeeAsthmaActionPlanDownload
  • Monitor Breathing and Measure your Peak Flow   A Peak Flow Meter is another tool you can use to help monitor your lung function at home[v].  You blow into it to get a measurement of lung function.  You can get a meter from most pharmacies; your Doctor or GP can show you how to use it.  It’s useful because sometimes, your lung function might decrease before you notice any other obvious symptoms (such as coughing or wheezing etc) so you can use it to measure your “normal” and “not normal” function, and also use it to measure “before” and “after” function when testing to find out your unique Asthma triggers.

You can download a chart to record your Peak Flow readings from by clicking here:  SeeAsthmaActionPlanDownload

This one does look a bit complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Keeping a simple record in a notebook will do the job just as well for you.

  • Identify early signs and take preventative action. By having a Plan and using Measuring Tools, like those two above, you will get to know your body’s optimal ranges and responses more intimately, enabling you to be more alert to signs of an oncoming attack, act quickly as appropriate, and be less likely to have a severe attack, or need as much medication to control your symptoms. 
  • Identify and avoid your environmental asthma triggers.  Since some of your Asthma triggers are more obvious than others, it can be quite a difficult and lengthy process to find out what all your triggers are so you can manage your condition better and avoid them.  This might especially be the case for irritants and allergens, indoors or outdoors, etc, but can equip you with your most effective strategy to get on top of your health.
  • Knowledge is Power – so RELAX  A lot of the inner fear associated with having a condition such as Asthma and other chronic or severe illness  can stem from fear of the future, fear of the unknown, fear of things getting worse.  Health anxiety  to varying degrees is quite normal, but when you are worrying A LOT about all those “what if this happens” or “what if that happens”, it can just amplify the mental and emotional stress that you are already trying to manage, which has a knock-on effect on your body, keeping it on the alert for danger and making you feel unsafe or anxious.    Equipping yourself with as much knowledge as possible, and having strategies for managing and coping, will help you feel more relaxed with your body; that’s a big plus point when it comes to your own health and healing and helps support your body in all its efforts to become well and restored again to its optimum capacity.  The more relaxed and safe you feel, the better your body will respond to your thoughts and emotions.  This is the essence of an holistic approach to health, taking your whole person into account, and not just focusing on say, your lungs, or your liver, or your heart, or whatever “body bit” is out of balance with the rest. 

I’m doing all this practical stuff already. What did I miss?

Let’s highlight that point about your mental and emotional health factors that we only touched briefly on earlier.  

Many medical sources cite stress, anxiety and other intense emotions as contributors towards Asthma.  This is often the last thing that is addressed after getting your diagnosis, your medications, and additional symptom management tools in place. 

But should this really be our  “last resort?  Or should it be our “first port of call”?

Eye-Opener #1:

In the field of Lifestyle Medicine research,  a direct relationship has been identified between making positive lifestyle modifications and our body’s ability to stop – and in some cases reverse – up to 80% of chronic health issues, including heart disease, blood pressure, diabetes and gene expression. I personally believe that this is an astonishing statistic, and one that is  potentially extremely self-empowering for people living with chronic illness.

In just one example, the Preventive Medicine Research Institute[vi] founded by Dr Dean Ornish (the “grand-daddy” of Lifestyle Medicine and leader in research in this field) has demonstrated in many double-blind studies that effective stress management is key to regaining optimum health, particularly when combined with other lifestyle changes such as better nutrition, fitness and social support.  Having experienced the great Covid pandemic, we all know how important social support is and how catastrophic it can be for each and every one of us when we do not have social contact and support in place. 

The good news is that as demonstrated by Dr Ornish and his team, just by making some simple, small tweaks in these 4 keys areas (Stress Management, Nutrition, Fitness, Social Support) you can have an extremely positive impact on your own health and vitality that accumulates in a positive way over time.  

Eye-Opener #2:

So could my Asthma be … mostly stress-related?  Well, yes, it could!

It has already been noted that for many Asthma sufferers, symptoms first begin during early childhood.  

But did you know that it can often be traced back to a person’s earliest incidents of Bullying during childhood (specifically a feeling of being personally threatened or attacked, whether actual or perceived).   It could even be caused by witnessing a traumatic event where a parent or other loved one was bullied, threatened or attacked. 

In that incident, your body’s own “Fight Flight Freeze” response would have been triggered, and that memory – complete with all its accompanying emotional, mental, physical aspects – stored and tucked away for future reference until you are ready to unravel it.   This is usually (but not always) a memory you can quite clearly recall;  something you saw or heard,  what you thought, and the emotions you felt in that moment i.e. anger, fear,  etc. 

Likely, on recalling the event, you might even still feel some emotion lingering in your body, especially in your chest area, even though it was many many years ago and not something you have consciously thought about for some time.  These are usually the type of memories we really don’t like to think about because they make us feel so uncomfortable, so we keep them suppressed and usually  hope they will go away.  But they are just like little corks that we try to hold down in a bucket of water.  They pop up to the surface again, often when least expected. 

As an adult, this sort of fear-based stress trigger situation could occur in the workplace or at home.  Perhaps you have a colleague or family member who you find unpredictable or confrontational.  Do they make you feel bullied, threatened or attacked. 

Of course, not everyone who has Asthma will have this exact same emotional trigger, in just the same way that not everyone who has a heart attack is unfit or overweight, not everyone who old gets dementia, etc.  But it is certainly an avenue worth exploring, to find out exactly what sort of fear-based stress you experience that could be connected with your Asthma flare-ups.

That’s me! But I’m not sure how to start with all this

If these ideas resonate with you, and you’ve been managing all other aspects of your Asthma for a long period of time, then now is a great time take that deep-dive into your brain-mind-body connections.  Now is the time to get that extra information and extra tool you need in order to further fine-tune your Asthma management.  

I use a technique called EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) combined with other proven protocols and coaching techniques to accompany and support my clients on these aspects of their health and wellness journeys.   All sessions are completely confidential, can be recorded for your future reference, and are available online via Zoom.  You’ll want to book a free and confidential consultation with me beforehand so we can have a chat first, giving us both the mutual opportunity to ask any questions you might have, and make sure we both feel we can work with eachother so we both get the best results from our time together.

Consultations are available online on Mondays: click this link to visit my diary (Other times and dates can be available on request)

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Eileen Strong
Health Coach & Holistic Therapies

Additional Resources:

REFERENCES for this article:


[ii] Asthma facts and statistics | Asthma UK

[iii] Asthma – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic

[iv] Asthma action plans | Asthma UK

[v] Peak flow test – NHS (

[vi] Clinical Research | Ornish Lifestyle Medicine