How to Deal with Anxiety When Returning to Raves and Festivals

Imagine Music Festival
Photo Credit: Imagine Music Festival

After more than a year without raves and festivals, many are excited to party again – but if you’re feeling anxious as well, you’re not alone.

Pandemic restrictions are lifting and life is returning to normal, even if no one really knows what normal is anymore. Our post-pandemic landscape promises a lot of the activities we’ve missed during isolation, but it’s also littered with landmines. When and where are masks required? How effective is the vaccine? Can we all hug again? How safe am I in crowds? What about indoor crowds compared to outdoor crowds?

Ah, crowds! If you’re like me, you really want to feel the energy of a crowd all dancing together again and you’re probably also a bit anxious about those very same crowds. This is totally natural and means that our body and mind are simply trying to protect us from danger. This is a good thing! But it can be paralyzing if we don’t actively manage this anxiety. So if you’re ready for a good ol’ rave and you are also feeling anxious, let’s work on managing that anxiety so we can have the best possible rave experience together. Here are some tips!

Everything begins with being mindful and making intentional decisions.

I’ve talked about this previously when covering how I rave as an, ahem, older raver. A friend of mine sent me her list of “Rave Re-Entry Intentions” and I thought this was such a terrific idea that I made my own as well. Unsurprisingly, the first two items on my list are: Be mindful selecting events to attend (and ones to skip) and Set intentions before every event (share them with others, too).

How often have we bought tickets for an event just because of the FOMO and later wondered how we ended up with five shows in three nights? Well, by considering which events to attend, and which ones to skip, those mindful choices will go a long way. For example, maybe you love to stack evening shows with afterparties, and that’s great! But if you are the type that can’t go 10 or 12 hours straight, that’s probably a bad decision.

Consider the promoter, performers, and venue now more than ever. If you are anxious about large, indoor crowds, seek out outdoor events, or venues limiting capacity, first. Get comfortable by going to that Sunday afternoon chillout party first before diving into a dark and packed warehouse for an overnight party.

Above & Beyond NYE NYC

A great crew can make for the best event, even if the DJ or venue is mediocre at best.

My trance fam is the best fam, but that doesn’t mean there are no bad apples. I’ve narrowed the list of folks in the group that I truly enjoy associating with, and I will seek out a solid crew for every event now. This is going to be extra important in these rave re-entry days because we all need the security and energy of the people who help us thrive. If I encounter bad people, I’m going to move around immediately and either “find my tribe” or simply go hang out solo in the back. Despite being a gregarious extrovert, I love spending some solitude time in the back just connecting to the music and nothing else.

I’m personally going to take this a step further by calling out bad behavior in people that I know. When the bad vibe is coming from the general crowd, sometimes it’s OK to simply move along. But when you know the person, there can be an obligation to call them out. This is especially important to me as a person in a position of privilege as a white, cis-male, and even more so because of my commitment to consent. It’s also important now more than ever because there is pent-up energy that will likely drive a lot of bad behavior, especially in men.

Take advantage of the potential playfulness that awaits us after a long slumber.

Personally, I intend to wear more costumes and enjoy a stronger sense of self-expression. I also intend to be more playful and interact with people in the crowd. These specific points may not suit you if you are on the shy side, but I would suggest taking in the crowd and being open to random interactions. Having gone to my first unrestricted event, I can tell you that there’s really friendly energy and it’s practically unavoidable. It’s a beautiful and likely fleeting thing, so embrace it at whatever level is comfortable to you, and I think you’ll agree that it will elevate your mood as well.

Because I’m quite outgoing, I soak up this kind of energy and often meet new friends because of this. However, I’m also really shy if I have an attraction to a raver throwing off great energy. I’ll say hello to practically anyone until there’s an attraction, and then I’m suddenly silenced. Well, I’m committing to saying hello and engaging with everyone that gives me a reason to engage. There’s a lot of evidence that we’re all craving new and random interactions, so why self-limit these? If you know friends that met their perfect partner at a rave and you crave this as well, be more engaging than before as it seems this is the perfect time for interaction.

NY Anjunafamily
Photo Credit: Avant Gardner

Bring a pre-packed fanny pack or hydration bag to assure success.

This isn’t specific to post-pandemic raves, but I keep a fanny pack or hydration bag at the ready with all the items I need to assure a terrific event, and this can be really helpful to reduce anxiety as well. Knowing that my pack is “grab and go” really reduces my stress, especially when I am running late to get to my crew’s meet-up on time. Each of us has different needs and I’m sharing my list in case it jogs some ideas for yours as well:

  • Earplugs (my 1of1 customs plus extra foam earplugs to give out to those in need)
  • Vick’s (I love a little menthol to re-energize me throughout the party)
  • Water bottle cap (many local venues take away the cap and packing one means I can still pocket a full water bottle)
  • Wristbands (I love to give out NY Anjunafamily wristbands at Anjuna and adjacent events)
  • Eye drops
  • Lip balm
  • Phone charger
  • THC mints
  • Narcan

Let’s talk about those last two items for a moment, as they’re geared towards the underground and typically won’t be allowed at festivals.

I’m a mostly sober raver, but I like 2.5mg edibles as a way to take the edge off and relax my body for a long day or night or dancing. What you take (or don’t) is up to you, and I simply suggest that you make a mindful decision about party favors. More importantly, right now there is a lot of evidence that street drugs are being more adulterated than ever. This means that party drugs like cocaine and ketamine from random sources may be cut with dangerous ingredients like fentanyl. I’ll be following this post up with one specifically on post-pandemic street drug safety, but in short, if you are going to use any sort of drug, please test before you ingest!

The fentanyl danger leads to that last item on my list: Narcan (naloxone). If you aren’t familiar with Narcan, it’s a simple nasal spray that can be given to someone experiencing an opioid overdose. Narcan blocks the neural receptors from taking up the opioid and, thus, slows the overdose. It won’t save a life by itself but can give the victim up to an hour of extra time to get the treatment they need to survive. I’ve never had to use it, but I feel good knowing I have it “just in case.”

Now let’s get out there and party together!

Some of us are going to dive right into the deep end, while others will dip a toe in and slowly immerse themselves in the kiddy pool. There is no right way to re-engage, and you should definitely do what works best for you. I hope that some of the suggestions here help ease any anxiety you have and can get you back to the lifestyle you love. Welcome back, ravers!

What are your plans to handle the anxiety of returning to raves and festivals in the coming months? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Jared, aka JSkolie, was introduced to electronic music in the 1990’s by way of Orbital. He raved in parks and fields in South Florida where the entirety of the production was a DJ in a box truck. Now living in NYC, he attended his first Above & Beyond show in 2016 and his life has never been the same. Jared has been energized by the Trance community and its PLUR ethos. He is a supporter of harm reduction and is a DanceSafe volunteer. Jared enjoys endurance events and has danced for 12-hours straight while often recovering from raves with bike rides just as long. Or longer.

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