As last month’s topic on music and mental health showed, music can really influence your mood and act as an escape from reality. Personally, for me there is no better escape from the world than going to a concert or festival and being surrounded by my favourite music and people who share the same appreciation for the artist as I do. Having been to many gigs and festivals since a young age, I’ve almost become used to the whole process. However, I can see how some people might find the thought of it overwhelming and triggering for anxiety and stress. Therefore, here is some advice to help make your experience more enjoyable if you are planning to go to a concert or festival this year.
TRAVEL AND HOTELS
When the dates are released, it is important to find out what time the curfew of a venue is as if you are using public transport, you will need to find out the last train/ tube times. At all the concerts I’ve been to since I moved away from London, I have needed to stay in a hotel and travel back the next day. Once we decided to catch the last train home and we had to leave the concert early and only just made the train by literally 2 seconds. It was very stressful and we missed part of the gig, so unless you are sure that you can make it in plenty of time, the best bet is to book a hotel. In terms of festivals, most people will drive as camping gear is very heavy! If you don’t drive, there are usually coach services that can pick you up from all over the country and take you to and from the festival. Latitude Festival runs a shuttle bus service from a nearby train station which is a life saver if you can’t get a lift (I’m sure other festivals would also run a similar service).
THE ACTUAL CONCERT
If you do suffer from anxiety or struggle with large crowds, then I’d definitely suggest taking someone with you that is aware so they can support you. Take a small bag with essentials to ensure that you get through the bag checks quickly. Although you get the best atmosphere from standing in the crowd, seats are probably better if you feel anxious due to the masses of people and the potential of mosh pits. Seats mean that you can take a break and still return to your seat and you also avoid being in the crush. Nevertheless, if you do purchase standing, you will usually make friends with the people around you and the stewards are on hand near the barriers to give you water and can carry you over if it all gets too much.
Once the concert has finished, there is always a massive crowd of people trying to get out of the stadium at once. Although you might seem inclined to rush out, the best thing to do is take your time and make your way slowly out. If you are in London, the Underground will be packed so you are better to wait for the crowds to disperse a bit before getting on (there are usually tubes every few minutes anyway).
Out of the two, I think that festivals are easier to deal with. Even though there will ultimately be a bigger crowd of people, there is less pressure as you don’t need to always be amongst everyone. There are usually seating areas/ bandstands in the main arena where you can still get a good view of the band due to the screens they have. The open space and smaller stages mean that you can always find a nice little place to sit and relax when it becomes overwhelming. This is helped by having the campsite nearby as you can easily go back to your tent etc with anything you need and take a break. Again, it is a good idea to go with a group of friends who can support you and ideally know the festival well (if it is your first time going) as this should give you some reassurance too. All festivals will have a team of people that can look after you if you feel distressed.
Most importantly, the best thing to do is try and relax and have fun. If you can overcome the stressful, anxious thoughts, you are guaranteed to have a wonderful time!