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Keeping an Asthma Journal
Asthma is nothing new to you. When you were a child, you hoped that your symptoms would dissipate and vanish by the time you were older. At the very least, you would like to say that your symptoms are now well managed and under control. Unfortunately, it’s just not true.
Since asthma continues to be a struggle, it may be time to consider an asthma journal. An asthma journal is a useful tool that helps you to track your asthma symptoms in an attempt to understand their tendencies better. By knowing the trends, you can stay ahead of your symptoms. Fewer symptoms will result in better physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing. Here’s how to make journaling work:
1. Choose Your Journal
This might seem silly, but the journal you choose has a bearing on the outcome. With today’s level of technology, journaling has moved away from paper and pencil to pixels and apps. When making your choice, focus on the method that will allow you to document the needed information thoroughly and with easy access. If your journal is only accessible some of the time, you may be tempted to skip an entry.
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2. Start With the Basics
Now that you have your journal method, you can shift focus to what you want to put in it. When tracking your symptoms, including the date, day of the week, time and location makes the most sense. To make your journal easier to complete and refer to later, consider using a tracking sheet system rather than a narrative. A tracking system focuses only on the pertinent information while discarding anything extraneous. This process will bring the sought-after data to the forefront.
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3. Use a Symptoms Intensity Scale
Since your goal is to reduce your asthma symptoms, it will be essential to track the symptoms that you experience. Using a symptoms intensity scale will aid this process. Some scales can be a simple 1-10 rating of severity, but you may benefit from others that are more personal. Consider emojis or pictures to represent the level of discomfort your symptoms caused. Duration of symptoms will be useful to track as well. How long did your attack last?
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4. Look at Behaviors
With the basics and symptoms recorded, begin to look at the behaviors you were engaging in leading up to the change in your symptoms. At this point, do not try to analyze the information. Even if you think that playing tennis or driving in the car could not possibly contribute to your symptoms, write them down. Focus only on writing down and tracking the events. What were you doing? Who were you doing it with? How long were you doing it? Later, you can take all of the data collected and review it.
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5. Consider Thoughts and Feelings
Hopefully, by now you have seen the connections between what you think, how you feel, and the symptoms you exhibit. Everyone’s mental health and physical health are intimately intertwined. For best results, pay close attention to your thoughts and feelings before, during and following the change in symptoms. When it comes to mental health, your thoughts and feelings following the event set the stage for the next event to occur. These consequences are too valuable to ignore.
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6. Response to AAP
Having an asthma action plan (AAP) is invaluable. Hopefully, you have one that is up-to-date and shared with trusted people in your life. If not, head online to find one that fits your needs. By including your response to your AAP, you can assess the benefit of the plan. If your plan is loaded with behaviors that you never perform, it’s time for a new plan. Your AAP is a tool that can really help your symptoms. Be sure to use it.
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7. Keep Consistent
Your best journaling efforts will be a tremendous waste of time if you cannot be consistent with it. Only documenting one attack out of 10 does not provide you with the level of information necessary to draw appropriate conclusions. In fact, this unstructured information may do more harm than good since it might encourage you to chase after the wrong issues. If you find yourself being unable to find consistency, head back to number 1 to start this process again.
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Just as you need to be consistent, you need to be actively reviewing the collected information. The review stage is of utmost importance so that you can find the trends and tendencies that develop. Look for patterns in times of day, locations and activities that seem to be associated with asthma attacks. Are symptoms worse in certain situations? Are there changes in duration? At times, you may be too close to the information to accurately assess your symptoms. In this case, employ the services of friends, family or your doctor to pull out the valuable information from your data. They can also suggest other items to track.
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The notion of starting and maintaining an asthma journal is meaningless if you do not use the information to change your experience. Take the lessons learned from the review step to make modifications to your life. Small alterations to your thoughts, feelings and behaviors could pay dividends with your symptoms. Avoid the reaction of cutting out any situations that may bring about symptoms. Perhaps some settings will need to be excluded, but the majority of situations can still be safe. Experiment with a range of times, locations and thinking patterns to find success.
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10. Seek the Positive
As mentioned, you do not want to resign yourself to a life lived within the confines of your four walls. You know that the asthma journal does a great job of providing information about risky situations, but it can do a wonderful job of shedding light on safe conditions as well. Rather than only documenting your unwanted symptoms, be sure to leave room in your journal for the days that were symptom-free. The same review process listed above will illustrate ways to expand and elaborate on ways to enjoy life with low symptoms.
Read more about why journaling is effective over at NewLifeOutlook