a man holding on to the back of a plane while his luggage flies out

I Love to Travel But I Do Not Love Flying: Managing Airports with HS

I am writing this on my first plane ride in two years. After months of not flying due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am flying home for a wedding. I have 18 years of experiencing HS flares, learning what my triggers are, and figuring out coping techniques. But nothing quite prepares me for high-stress situations that are out of my control. Flying and airports are just that.

Fortunately, there are some things I can do to prepare for the stressful events of the day. Stress can be outside of my control and I feel that it is important to acknowledge that. But I do have some tricks and self-reminders for handling that stress. I am intentional about what I wear, give myself ample time to maneuver the airport, drink a lot of water, and use some breathing exercises to help manage stress. I also remind myself to be gentle with my body and give myself grace.

The stress of an airport

My day started at 8 am and the level of stress built up over the day. My first step was to get dressed. I chose a loose-fitting romper and wireless bra that is comfortable in the heat and is not constraining my flares. It makes me feel cute and is usually very comfortable.

I was running a little bit late so I tried to quickly pack my car, something that is difficult for me physically. I had to drive 2 hours to the airport and wanted plenty of time to check my bag and go through security. Physically, driving is easy and not a trigger for me. However, my anxiety to get to the airport and have that time started to make me a little stressed. At this point, I decided to listen to my music and focus on getting to the airport safely.

Fortunately, I arrived at the airport with plenty of time. Since standing for extended periods can be hard, it is important to me that I be able to give myself breaks. I stood in line to check my bag and casually walked to security. I have TSA pre-check which is definitely helpful for someone with a chronic illness. It cuts down the stress of flying significantly and minimizes my movement. I went through security and found my gate easily and felt ready for my flight.

Heat is a major trigger for me

Once I was in the terminal however, everything was stressful. It was loud, busy, cramped, warm, and humid. That kind of moist, stagnant, cramped heat is the number one trigger for my HS. I knew things were not going to be good if that lasted for too long. I knew I needed to sit down, cool down, and calm down as much as possible. I made sure my boarding pass was easy to access and then shut out the world. I put in my earbuds and turned on soothing music. I read my book and tried my best to focus on myself.

Our flight was delayed which required me to be in this stressful environment for several more hours. That was hard. Once I start sweating, things become pretty uncomfortable for me. I could feel my HS flares getting aggravated. At this point, I decided to stay seated and hope that my HS would not get too bad.

Giving myself grace

Now on the plane, I am mostly comfortable. This flight is half empty, so I do have some space. But sitting in one position for hours is hard on my skin and muscles. People often find airplanes to be cold but I am always hot in them. Still air that is made warmer by other people is one of the worst triggers for me. This is the moment where I remind myself to give myself grace. Once I land, I can relax for the rest of the day. I do not need to push it and be active when I know I need a break.

Some people do not understand why I don’t love to fly. I prefer road trips because I have more control. HS is often out of our control and so is flying. Those things together can be stressful and overwhelming for me. But I do love to travel, so I do not want it to hold me back. These tricks help me cope with the stress of flying.

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