A tank top within a long sleeve, within a thermal, within a puffer jacket

Dressing in Layers Really Helps

Last updated: January 2023

Being claustrophobic means that I have a tough time being constrained. Having COPD certainly doesn’t help.

Having been intubated several times, when I wake up with my hands tied to the bed, I could scream, except I can’t because I am intubated. When winter comes, I find that coats are restrictive and binding.

I could just about go crazy feeling trapped in them and being unable to move. Once I start coughing, I have to get that coat off, regardless of the weather, and it needs to be an immediate action.

My husband knows to grab that arm of my coat immediately.

Dressing in layers for comfort

When I was younger and worked in my gardens, I would rise early in the mornings and dress in many layers starting with a t-shirt and many layers, ending with a hoodie. It was perfect for the cool mornings that turned into warm afternoons.

As I worked away, I could shed layers to stay comfortable without overheating or being cold. Then as day turned into night, and as the temperatures cooled, I could go in reverse and put all my layers back on gain.

It was a great way to be unrestricted and maintain my temperature.

Layers at work

When working as a business instructor, I dressed business casual, and I would feel comfortable with layering. Most of my outfits started with a shirt, then a jacket, and on top of that was my coat.

It was always important to me that when I started to feel warm, I could shed a layer. Being overheated always caused me to start coughing; once that started, it could turn into something I could no longer control.

Coats make me feel constrained

As COPD started in earnest and I started to become breathless upon exertion, it became paramount that I could get my coat off as soon as possible. The very thought of being restricted with a coat on would increase my anxiety and cause greater shortness of breath.

Back in the days when I was still driving, I would get into the car and immediately take off my coat. Having a car starter and heated seats really helped me to use layering and go without my coat.

While driving, I could never take a chance on coughing and being unable to get my coat off.

COPD and feeling restricted

Since I have had COPD, the thought of being confined makes me feel like I am inside a coffin and they are closing the lid. Perhaps it is the constant breathlessness that we all feel or the struggle to breathe that makes it happen.

I only go short distances now that I have COPD, and my retired husband takes me anywhere I want to go. I no longer drive, but when he drives, and we go out, I usually wear sweaters and capes.

They keep me warm without restricting me. How do you handle the weight and constriction of heavy coats in the winter?

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