I went to Brighton’s Wildlife festival at the weekend. For quite a while I was psyching myself up to spend 2 days in a field with friends, drinks and music. Obviously the idea of having a possible panic in the middle of crowds due to the overwhelming body contact and interaction wasn’t great, but I tried to brush that under a hypothetical rug.
Once the weekend arrived, it shortly became the highlight of my summer so far. No big problems arose – not even a blip or two. I felt like I had everything under control (something rare for us sufferers!). This event inspired me to create a post on how I personally deal with my own form of anxiety during times where the chances are higher. It’s not often I make anxiety advice posts because I feel that everybody is entirely different from one another. Keep in mind that these are just my own tips and tricks that benefit me every time I attend a gig or festival.
1. Attend The Festival/Gig
…Well, duh – right? This might sound a little odd, but one of my first pieces of advice is to ‘just do it’. Obviously, you already have intentions to if you are reading this, but things can get a little scary during the build up of a special event. You must keep in mind that it all does get easier the more and more you try them. That isn’t because you’re magically cured, but because you force yourself into situations that help you learn about yourself and the way you work. If I already know what I usually react badly to, then I can work on making small changes in the way I do things during future events.
I love music, dancing, and partying… Giving all those up because I can get easily overwhelmed is exactly what my anxiety wants me to do. I won’t let it win.
2. Choose Your Troop Wisely
A big part of how well I think an event is going to go is who I plan to go with. This might come across a little rude, but lets face it; we all have those friends who we just… ‘gel’ with better. We just feel a little more comfortable and at ease with them. If you can, make sure you are attending the event with somebody you are close with, knows you well and makes you feel relaxed (especially if they know you’re an anxiety sufferer).
Important: Have everybody’s number on your phone in case you lose them and please discuss a meeting point as soon as you get there.
3. Go With The Pro
Speaking of choosing your troop, I have always found it useful attending new places with somebody who doesn’t find them as new as you do. It’s always good news if at least one person with me knows what they’re doing because they’ve “done it before”. That could be an avid ‘gig-goer’, or just somebody who “loves a good festival”. It makes me feel as though there is less pressure on myself knowing all the ins and outs/vital things about the event. They are always going to be around to ask questions and lead the way!
4. Do Some Research
Sometimes if I am going to be really unfamiliar with the location, I will do a little bit of research before the event. This can mean a quick google map check to view the area you are going to be visiting. It will give you a little peace of mind when you get there and have a rough idea where everything is. I have always found that a balance between organisation and spontaneity is good for me. If I over organise myself, I am going to get myself into a worked up stress. However, giving myself the basic knowledge of an area I am going to attend usually does the trick. Something I often do is look online for people who have posted photos or YouTube videos from the event a year before. If not, a very similar event.
I have multiple things to say about this one. Firstly, the one you were expecting – water. I am personally really bad at this because I don’t want to risk losing my spot right by the stage due to a full bladder or because I need to go get a drink. Whatever you do, take your toilet and drink breaks whenever you can and whenever suits your schedule for the day. For gigs, I make sure I have popped to the loo and had water right before going into the crowd (this is when going with a friend can help as they can hold your space in the queue while you go!). For festivals, it is a whole lot easier to do drink breaks every so often. No excuses!
On the other hand, there are going to be a whole lot of people around you drinking alcohol. As mentioned earlier, this point in particular definitely differs depending on the individual. But as you know yourself best, be sure that you stick to your most ‘appropriate’ level of alcohol consumption. Personally, I feel that after a couple drinks, a big ton of my anxiety is lifted. For most people though, that isn’t the case. However, I can’t go too nuts because hangovers bring that anxiety right back up x2 the next day (which isn’t ideal when you’re attending a festival over a few days).
Lastly, the idea of having a drink to hold helps me a lot. One part about feeling awkward in public is feeling as though you stick out like a sore thumb. There’s something comforting about having a cool drink on you to keep your hands busy. Or maybe it’s just the feeling of a cold substance being in your palms. This point sounded a little odd, but I guess I know what I mean…
6. Allow Yourself Time
A big part of my anxiety comes from pressure. Rushing about like a headless chicken, doing important things last-minute and panicking about all these little details I must not forget is pressure I do not need. People prone to anxiety usually get in the habit of turning up to things early. There is something a lot more calming about being early than late in the minds of somebody who easily find themselves in a panic. I find that getting yourself up a little early will help you dramatically. This is particularly helpful for gigs and festivals when you may want to look a little extra ‘done up’. This way, there’ll be no reason to get all flustered over chasing the time when applying makeup, doing hair and getting changed.
Allowing yourself time also involves getting your bags packed and makeup/clothing planned days in advance. The more you sort out now, the less you’ll need to stress on the day – you don’t want to drive yourself into an anxious mess!
7. Positioning Yourself In Crowds
One of my favourite things about gigs is just being in the moment; slap bang in the centre of a crowd who have that same undying love for mutual music. I simply must be in the middle of that. If you’re anything like me and you queue early because you would hate to be shoved at the back, you’re going to be the first ones in anyway. Now is a good time to spot the exits just incase you might need them later. On the other hand, if it isn’t as important to you, it’s a good idea to stick to the right hand side of a crowd. This way you are near an exit, but still within all the action. (This also keeps you away from a possible mosh pit; but just keeping away from the middle of a crowd will generally do that anyway).
It’s important to mention here how much love and respect you will find at gigs and concerts. You are surrounded by people who are just friends you haven’t met yet. Keep your eyes ahead of you and focused on the stage. Remember who and what you are there for. Keep conversation busy with those you came with while you wait for the act. If you think it’ll freak you out, try to avoid looking behind you incase the idea of feeling smothered overwhelms you.
And lastly, have a freaking awesome time. You are going to have a blast. I am so excited for you!
I would love to know if any of these help. Feel free to add your own pieces of advice for those who need it. These points are very specific to me so I cannot possibly help everybody.