A mother and daughter walk together to the cystic fibrosis clinic.

Tips for Managing Pre-Clinic Day Anxiety

I am writing this article now in the wake of having my clinic visit a few days ago. And, let me preface by saying I had a GOOD visit (which is definitely not always the case), so I feel I am in a positive headspace to be able to write about this topic. I know I am not alone in my feelings of anxiousness before a CF clinic visit, I know many of us experience clinic anxiety. And, to be fair, rightly so. The unfortunate reality is that many CF clinic visits do not always go well. But, make sure you know, that you are not alone in these feelings of anxiety.

Numbers aren’t everything in CF, but they do matter

When it comes to CF, our numbers do matter. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re not everything. But they are an indication of what is happening in our lungs and have to be taken into account when making a treatment decision. I have had visits where I went in feeling like I had exercised hard, stuck to my treatments, slept well… and still had my PFTs end up in a place where I wasn’t happy about them.

That being said, I’ve had the opposite happen, too. This week, for example, I was anxious about my visit and a little stressed about work, so I did not sleep well at all the night before a clinic visit. I expected that to make a negative impact on my PFTs, and they ended up 3% higher than my last visit 2 months prior. CF is a balancing act, and sometimes our numbers reflect the work we put in, and unfortunately, sometimes they don’t.

Cystic fibrosis clinic visits give me anxiety

I know for me, PFT numbers are my main source of anxiety before a clinic visit. Based on the results of this test, I can usually gauge how the rest of the visit is going to go, and if there is going to be discussion with the doctor around antibiotics or re-starting treatment of the MAC in my lungs or IVs, etc.

Over the years, and after an estimation of about 100 clinic days, I have learned what works for me to help manage the pre-clinic anxiety and stress.

How I manage my pre-clinic anxiety

There are a few things I try to do every time leading up to clinic day, as well as on my actual appointment day.

The week before your CF clinic visit

  1. No missing treatments. I am usually good about my treatments, but I do skip now and again when life gets busy… who doesn’t? But the week or two before my clinic visit, I try my best to get every single aspect of my treatment in.
  2. Extra exercise. Again, I am also usually good about my exercise routine. But I know my anxiety will skyrocket if my routine gets thrown off, or I had to miss days of exercise. For instance, I was away on vacation the week before this clinic visit, and I did worry that only running two days the week before would impact my lungs. And, it definitely impacted this visit’s stress level.
  3. Plenty of sleep. Sleep is important in CF. When I am not sleeping well, that usually mean I am not feeling well. So, I want my lungs to feel as good as possible before my visit, and that means getting plenty of rest.
  4. Eating well (and lots). I try to eat well before clinic visits, in hope of putting a few extra pounds on. This is less of a stressor to me than PFT numbers, but it is still something I try to put a little extra focus on leading up to a visit.

The day of your CF clinic visit

  1. Sleep in a little extra. I almost always work from home before clinic day (and now I work from home exclusively). So, I try and sneak a few extra minutes of rest in the morning, especially if it takes me a little longer to fall asleep the night before.
  2. Eat a good meal, but nothing heavy. I try to balance eating enough that my weight doesn’t drop, with not eating too heavy so I don’t feel too full for doing my PFTs (I know we’ve all eaten too much before a coughing fit… it never ends well).
  3. Wear comfortable, loose clothes. Maybe it’s just me, but if I wear clothes that are snug, I feel like I don’t get the biggest breath possible for PFTs. So, for the ladies specifically, I try and wear a loose sports bra so that I don’t feel constricted.
  4. Do PFTs first. I always try to do my PFTs as close to the beginning of my appointment as possible. That way, I don’t have to spend the whole time worrying and wondering what my numbers will be.
  5. Having someone come for support. I always have someone come with me on clinic days, usually my mom. It helps just knowing someone is out there in the waiting room, waiting to support me in whatever good or bad results may come, or to come and get a second pair of ears in on any treatment discussion.

Do you get clinic anxiety?

Now, don’t get me wrong, even with following these tips for myself, I still get anxious before a clinic visit. However, I have found for myself personally, that following the above tips helps me manage those feelings and keeps any anxiousness from escalating.

How do you feel before a clinic visit? I'd love to hear about your experiences in our stories or the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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