You can find the previous installments of this series here and here.
Don’t get me wrong: I think booking flights and packing bags with pain needs in mind is a form of self-care. However, they’re forms of self-care where the focus is on things rather than on me. And sometimes the focus does need to be on me.
And it’s important to remember that in between all the packing and running around and double checking and goodbyes and everything.
[By Politikaner (Self-photographed) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]
Allow plenty of time to pack. — Normally, my stuff is spread out all over my house (and car), which is not a problem until such a time as I’m trying to corral it all into one bag. Sometimes the things I want are dirty and need to be washed, sometimes I can’t find the things, and sometimes it turns out I don’t even have the things anymore. (Toothbrush holders, I am looking at you… or I would be if I could find where y’all went.) Feeling like I have to get everything together right now — which, if I wait until the last minute to pack, I do — means I’m rushing. When I rush, I stress. When I stress, I hold tension in my body. Where there is physical tension, there is also pain. Giving myself the extra time — bits and pieces, spread out over the course of a few days — to acquire, organize, and pack can help reduce all the pain-making negatives.
Prep body for a bad pain day. — Even though I’m doing many things to limit the pain I’ll experience, I still expect to be in a significant amount of pain while traveling. (Because there is no way “airplane” = “fun happy times” for my hips.) For me, preparing for a bad pain day involves avoiding irritating foods and taking standard (i.e., over-the-counter strength) doses of my NSAIDs starting one to two full days before I’m actually traveling. If I can prevent pain from starting — or at least prevent the really bad pain from showing up — that’s easier and more effective than reducing the bad pain once it’s already there.
Get enough rest. — Ideally, this would be “get enough sleep” — and sleep is always the goal — but sometimes this isn’t strictly possible. Anxiety about the flying process. Excitement about the trip. Needing to wake at a time that totally fucks with my sleep patterns. All of the above. While actual sleep is sometimes beyond my control (at least without the help of pharmaceutical agents, which do not make for a restful sleep for me), I am in control of providing my body with sufficient hours of rest. If sleep doesn’t happen for all of them — e.g., when it’s too early or I’m too wired — I can at least give myself something relaxing to do. Book reading is high on my list. Also, there are worse things than yoga nidra.
Wear comfy clothes to the airport. — Yes, I am the person flying in yoga pants and no bra. No, I could not give any fewer fucks about it. Because my body is already going to be far too limited in movement for too much of the day. Today is one day where I just cannot deal with clothing that restricts my movement even further.
Allow for plenty of time at the airport. — Even as someone who likes running and who purposely packs a light carry on, I do not enjoy sprinting or even power walking to my gate because the line through security was longer than I’d anticipated. For me, forced, rushed movement is not the same as balanced, beneficial movement.
But do move. — Like I just said, forced, rushed movement is not the same as balanced, beneficial movement. So just as I’m likely to proceed toward my gate at a comfortable walking pace, I’m also likely to remain in some kind of motion for a lot of the time I’m at the gate. Gentle walks in the general vicinity, maybe up and down the corridor. And, yes, if the area isn’t very crowded, you might find me on the floor doing some seated side bends, twists, and hip openers.
And remember to eat — and drink! — One of my biggest flying fears is needing to go to the bathroom on the airplane. Not because I’m embarrassed by other people hearing me tinkle or shit, but because doing so will mean I need to move down the aisle of a crowded plane. Because of pain and nerve issues, I’m not stable walking on an unstable surface, such as a moving plane, even if that plane is experiencing zero turbulence. Unless I am actually in danger of urinating or defecating on the seat, I’ll hold it, thank you very much.
Often, this “I’ll hold it” mentality translates to me being reluctant to eat or drink anything from about an hour before I leave for the airport until I land. This is obviously not the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, irritability, dehydration: None of these interact well with pain. Which is why I bring along munchie-type foods — making trail mix at home has literally made my flights so much better — and check in with myself occasionally to make sure I’m eating and drinking something.
Plan for the day after flying to be a crapshoot, too. — My mom likes to plan a massage for her first or second full day after flying anywhere. I generally do not have so much time or income at my disposal, but I do like to limit the strenuous stuff on that “recovery day” as much as I can. Otherwise, I find that a lot of the back and hip pain keeps hanging on.
Other traveling with chronic pain tips?