If you struggle with feeling overwhelmed and anxious at festivals, you’re not alone! We’ve compiled a list of ways to help keep that anxiety at bay.
At its core, anxiety is a feeling of nervousness, worry, fear, or stress. Festival anxiety can be triggered by many factors, including the fear of crowds, loud noises, unfamiliar surroundings, the pressure to have fun, and the fear of missing out. Some people may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, sweating, or trembling. Others may struggle with racing thoughts or the inability to focus, and some may withdraw or become irritable. Attending a festival or large event can be daunting for many people, especially those who struggle with anxiety.
The first way to prep for festival anxiety begins before you get there. It starts with choosing an event with the music and venue you’d enjoy. If you aren’t sure about the environment, you can go online and see videos of prior sets or events to get a feel for what it will be like. Being mentally prepped for what you’re setting out to attend will be the best way to eliminate some anxiety from the start. Not sure where to begin? Here are ten music festivals perfect for first-time attendees!
Feeling secure upon arrival is also a great way to minimize the chance of additional anxiety. Research the event and know what you can/can’t bring so you don’t have feelings of panic as you enter, starting yourself off on the wrong foot. Additionally, solidify your transportation to and from the event. There’s nothing more stressful than finding out you hadn’t figured out a ride home afterward. Finally, plan your day/night out so you won’t fret in the moment. Give yourself a solid agenda that has room for minor changes if need be.
Many people can feel anxious when exploring new surroundings at night, so showing up when it’s light out can be helpful to get situated.
If the event goes from daytime to nighttime, surprisingly, one thing that helps immensely is coming early during the daytime hours. For someone like me who gets anxious with large crowds and needs to be in control of my surroundings, showing up early lets me find out exactly where the water, food, bathroom, and exits are. In addition, it allows me to create a visible meet-up point in case I lose the group.
Speaking of groups, a great way to make sure you have support during any festival anxiety is to have a trusted friend or loved one that you can confide in or lean on when you’re feeling anxious. Remember that the crowd you surround yourself with will likely influence your mood and mental state. Never be afraid to let your friends know if something is not feeling right mentally, and make sure they know your whereabouts if you need to walk off. A great resource to use is the ‘zen’ areas that most festivals have nowadays. They usually consist of a calm, relaxed, comforting environment with staff to watch over and attend to you if needed.
For many, even with the best event prep, anxiety still manages to creep in. One cause of anxiety is overstimulation, which can occur due to the many theatrics that events put on. Lasers, fog machines, bright neon lights, large crowds, strobes, and loud noises can sometimes create a suffocating and overwhelming experience. In times like these, when immediate anxiety sets in, a few easy ways to temporarily alleviate some stress are closing your eyes and using breathing techniques. Closing your eyes can be a great way to temporarily turn off one of your senses, giving your brain a deep breath to process your other senses appropriately.
Breathing techniques are a quick way to handle anxiety in the moment.
My favorite methods are square breathing, double-time breathing, and switching nostrils. Square breathing consists of breathing in for four seconds, and out for four seconds and repeating it while envisioning each breath is following along the sides of a square. Double-time breathing is breathing in for a certain amount of time and breathing out for double that amount. For example, breathing in for five and out for ten. This method forces your body to slow down your heart rate, which helps slow the mind. Finally, the last method is alternate nostril breathing which begins with breathing in the left nostril while holding closed your right nostril with your fingers, then switching sides and breathing out the right nostril while closing your left nostril, and then repeat. Not only does this method force you to think about it and distract you, but it also highly benefits your nervous system.
One fun and whimsical way to keep anxiety at bay is to keep a safety/comfort item with you. For some people, having a comfort pashmina that they can wrap themselves in is what keeps them content. A small trinket or a favorite Kandi bracelet can be the answer for others. I always keep my (very ironic) emotional support chicken with me at every event.
The best way to handle anxiety is to make sure you take breaks, eat well, and drink plenty of water. It can help to think of yourself as a video game character. For the character to survive and be happy, it has to eat, drink, use the bathroom, walk around, etc. So if I feel anxious and unwell, I first run through that list to ensure I’ve checked off every self-care necessity.
If the crowd or vibe feels off, listen to your feelings, and don’t be afraid to move on or go somewhere else.
Finally, remember that it’s okay to walk off to find a quiet spot. There’s been plenty of times that the vibes weren’t the best at some of my favorite artists. It happens! Just remember that there will be chances in the future to see/attend a show again, so don’t feel bad about missing out if the feelings just aren’t there. Do what’s best for you! By preparing beforehand, using calming techniques, and acknowledging/accepting your feelings, handling festival anxiety can be easier, and attending events less intimidating.
What do you think are some techniques you use to deal with anxiety? Let us know if you use any of the ones listed or have more ideas to contribute on Twitter!