Tips for Pacing Yourself While Living with Pulmonary Fibrosis

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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Learning to live with a life-threatening, chronic lung disease as a young adult is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is characterized by irreversible and progressive scarring of the lungs, known as “fibrosis,” which ultimately diminishes a person’s ability to breathe. While the prognosis of IPF was previously only three to five years, this estimate is now considered to be outdated, and experts say that the survival rate is unpredictable.

Since my diagnosis of IPF three years ago, I’ve had to learn to do many things differently. Thankfully, I can still confidently say that while many things are harder for me, nothing is entirely impossible yet. I’ve recognized the importance of pacing myself when it comes to both physical and mental activities.

I was a very active and busy person before my diagnosis, so this lesson hasn’t come easily to me. But I know that when I don’t heed my body, it forces me to rest — sometimes I get sick and require hospitalization.

While I’ve gotten better at pacing myself, maintaining balance is an ongoing challenge for me. I don’t know if I will ever master it, but I’ve picked up some tips along the way. I am privileged to know many other people with IPF through the PF News Forums and other online communities, so I thought I’d share my advice in the hope that it helps others.

Connect with other people and share tips on how to manage PF in our forums!

Following are some of my tips to help you pace yourself:

  • Take frequent breaks: While this may seem obvious, patients with IPF often consider only the physical effects of the disease. I’ve written about my mental fatigue, which happens as a result of chronic under-oxygenation and physical exhaustion. When I’ve been working longer hours than I should, I notice that it affects my mental clarity and ability to problem-solve and plan various tasks. Taking frequent breaks is essential for my mental health as well as my physical well-being.
  • Reframing language: A work colleague who holds the position of organizational development lead recently discussed the connotations of the word “try.” They asked, “How often do you use this word? Did you know that from a professional development perspective, the word ‘try’ indicates that completion of the task is unlikely?” I use “try” all the time, and I had thought that others believed me when I told them that I would try to do something even when I knew it might not be possible. This experience has made me more aware of the words that I use and determined to commit to only those things that I know I can do. For example, I use statements such as, “I will complete that task,” instead of, “I will try to.”
  • Set realistic expectations: My close friends and family describe me as a classic overachiever. I have high expectations of myself, and I believe that others do as well. However, I now have physical limitations and need to be realistic with myself about what I can manage. I also have to communicate openly and honestly about my capabilities to help others set reasonable goals for me.
  • Learning to say no: This is a work in progress for me. I don’t like to say no due to my fear of missing out. Turning down something that is unimportant helps to conserve your energy for meaningful activities. If you fear missing out on an opportunity, I suggest saying, “Not right now,” instead of declining. Putting something off allows you to avail of the opportunity at a later time while prioritizing what you need to take care of at the moment.
  • Asking for help: My lung disease will inevitably progress, and some tasks will become impossible for me to do. When this happens, I will have to ask for help to pace myself and conserve my energy for carrying out the essential tasks.

Do you have any other tips for pacing yourself as a patient with IPF/PF? Please share in the comments below. 


Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Estrella avatar


Im glad i came accross your article. I was diagnosed of pulmonary fibrosis in 2016 too thru an xray for pulmonary clearance for hysteroscopy. A pulmoary dr diagnosed me as having a minimal tb and immediately prescrived me a 6 mths medication but some Pulmonary drs shrugged it off as just an ordinary scarring. I have now a permanent pulmonary dr. She diagnosed me as having asthma but still believed I have pulmonary fibrosis as seen on my chest xray. I am using seretide 2xday as maintenance and ventolin inhaler or sometimes nebule when i have asthma attacks and other anti allergy/anti asthma oral tablets. I want to get in touch with people of the same health problem as i do have for others who dont have pf can not relate what i feel and what im going through. I hope i can be given some tips from others too on how to cope/ manage fb.evwn if i am already 68 yrs old i still want to live longer to be able to see all my grandchildren grow up into responsible adults. Pls include me for any more tips you may have. Thank you.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Estrella,

Thank you so much for reading my columns and getting in touch via the comments. So sorry to hear of your diagnosis, and the runaround that it took for you to get some answers. Having our disease shrugged off as asthma happens a lot and it is so difficult! In terms of wanting to get in touch with others living with IPF, have you joined our forums yet? You can here for free: ... it is a wonderful community of people who are so helpful when it comes to questions/suggestions/advice. Feel free to join us there!
Kind regards,

Joy Hoffmann avatar

Joy Hoffmann

The serious problem with the IPF forum is that the input is not dated. Also how long have you lived with IPF? If longer than 3 years then how are you feeling in the third year compared to the first year?
I was diagnosed in March of 2020 and began OFEV that same month. It is now August 30. 2020. No side effects.
I always eat healthy and take the 150 mg twice a day after meals.
I may have wine once or twice a week but not even that often usually.
I walk 2/3 miles a day.
Lift weights 3 lbs 100 times in different ways.
I am 82 .
Very fortunate to find a great pulmonologist right away.
Have not had breathing Six month breathing test yet, .it us due soon.
My blood test was normal
My main problem is the anxiety for what the future holds.
So that is my story
Oh my 72 year old sister died from IPF in 2014 before The slowing meds came out.

Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Joy,

Thanks so much for sharing your story and reading my columns. You are correct: a lot of information out there on IPF is outdated, but most people's stories on the forum are their personal experience so no-dating is possible with that :) Many of our members have had IPF for over three years. So glad you're able to tolerate the 150 mg of Ofev and keep up an appetite for healthy foods. Glad your story is a positive one so far, keep up the great work! Take care, Char.


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