Sunday, 7 August 2016

Dealing with Anxiety at Comic Con

Before I went to my first Comic Con expo, I was terrified. The thought of being in a building absolutely rammed with people was not my idea of fun. I have anxiety disorder. Places filled with people I don't know make my anxiety sky high, the thought of not being able to escape the building quickly if I needed to, the idea of all the sensory overload I'd get from a room full of echoing voices. So much panic circulated my mind whenever I pictured going to Comic Con. The trouble is that in the weeks following the event, I would see photos and videos of people having an awesome time, of the most amazing cosplay, or of all of the nerdy goodies everyone had brought home with them, and I would feel the craws of depression sinking in. I was envious of those people; I was angry at myself because of my anxiety. I  wanted nothing more than to join my fellow nerds at Comic Con and it broke my heart that I was being held back, that I was missng out on this wonderful experience. 

So I decided that I was going to do it! I was going to go to a Comic Con expo in the summer after graduating from university. On an impulse, I purchased tickets for my best friend & I, so I couldn't change my mind. I was determined that I was going to take this leap and do something I'd always wanted to do! Whenever I would get anxious thoughts, when I would start to panic and want to back out, I would tell myself that I can just go back home if I didn't like it. So I went to the local MCM Comic Con event on Saturday 25th July 2015 and I had a fantastic time, despite my anxiety. It was a great learning experience of how I can cope with stressful situations if I am really focused on getting through it. I was able to experience what Comic Con was like, which meant I could avoid things I didn't feel comfortable with at this years event. I've decided today to share with you all some tips for dealing with anxiety at expos, as I would have appreciated being able to read something like this before I went to my first con. I hope that these tips are helpful to others who have been too anxious to go. Enjoy!

Dealing with Anxiety at Comic Con, Coping with Anxiety at Comic Con, Anxiety at Comic Con,

Here are my tips for dealing with anxiety at conventions: 

(1) Go with a close friend or family member 

I'm someone who doesnt feel comfortable going anywhere without being accompanied by a friend or family member, but when it comes to an event like Comic Con, I always got with my best friend. It's important that when you go somewhere that can be really anxiety-provoking, that you go with someone you trust, someone you feel comfortable expressing how you feel to, someone who you know will be supportive and encouraging, as they know you struggle with anxiety. It's great to have someone with you to distract you, to help you not spend the day in a state of constant panic. 

(2) Take breaks

It can be really overwhelming to deal with Comic Con so make sure you get outside or to a quiet area to relax, calm down or rationalise your thoughts. Don't worry about missing something. You are there, you're having a great time and if you feel like you've missed out on something, you can always go again. 

(3) Think about getting a hotel room nearby

I haven't yet done this, but I definitely think that it would relieve a lot of my anxiety if I had a room that I could go back to if everything is getting too much. If I was feeling overwhelmed or like I was going to have an anxiety attack, I wouldn't need to worry about being surrounded by lots of people that I don't know. Having a hotel room would also mean you didn't have to use public transport after the convention, and deal with the massive crowds of people flocking to the train station or bus stops afterwards.

(4) Utilise the quieter areas 

There are areas in Comic Con events with less people or corners away from the crowds, go and sit there to eat or to get away from sensory overload for a while. At Manchester Comic Con, I go and sit on the floor either in the area where the food vans are or in the other room seperate from where all of the stalls are. Me and my best friend will try to do this every 30 minutes- to an hour as it helps with both my anxiety and my fibromyalgia, because shopping can get really tiring. Remember that if there's no quiet areas, there's always the toilets. You can sit in a stall and do some breathing exercises to help clear your mind before heading back into the events hall.

(5) Remember to look after yourself   

Comic Con's are busy, you will be on your feet for a long time, wandering around all of the stalls and checking out everyone's cosplay. Make sure you get enough sleep the night before you go, otherwise you will feel really exhausted and won't have as great of an experience. You are likely to be both mentally and physically drained if you are dealing with anxiety, and even more so if you also have other health conditions, so make sure to take rest stops throughout the day. Make sure you carry a drink with you or bring enough money to buy some (the food and drinks at conventions are pretty pricey! I paid £2.50 for a bottle of coke), and also remember to eat something. 

Dealing with Anxiety at Comic Con, Coping with Anxiety at Comic Con, Anxiety at Comic Con,

(6) Explore first

When you first go into the convention, before you start shopping, walk around the building just to see where all of the exits are, where the toilets and the quiet areas are. This will help to reduce any panic you may have later in the day as you'll know how to 'escape' when you need to. You may be able to see a plan of the building online so if you prefer, so have a search around for that before your day out. I felt much more at ease this year now that I knew what to expect as soon as I got inside the event. I knew where to go and I could quickly get there if I needed to without having to panic as I looked for signs or doorways.  

(7) Dress up as one of your favourite characters!

One of the most enjoyable things about Comic Con is the cosplay! It truely is so much fun to check out everyone's costumes of their favourite anime, comic book, movie, book or cartoon characters. The atmosphere is great, because everyone feels awesome in their cosplay. Some people put a massive amount of time and effort into their cosplay and it's epic. Although I'm definitely an amatuer when it comes to cosplay, I still love dressing up. I feel that when I'm wearing the cosplay, I feel less anxious because I am surrounded by people also dressed up and I feel in my element, at ease knowing that I'm surrounded by fellow nerds all there to have a wonderful time.  It's also easy to get into character when you are cosplaying, to almost not feel like yourself. That may sound weird, but I felt like an adorable Totoro this year not introvented, anxious little me haha. Do keep in mind that people may ask you if they can take a photo of your cosplay or talk to you because you're dressed as one of their most loved characters!

(8) Use grounding techniques  

Grounding is a method/technique used to help people with mental illnesses stay focused and remain present, rather than going into a detached or dissociative state in order to cope with stressful situations or surroundings. Grounding can be really helpful when your anxiety is high or you feel a panic/anxiety attack coming on. There are lots of methods you can find online but one of my personal favourites is one in which you concentrate on your five senses. If you feel yourself getting more and more anxious, look around you and follow these points:

Find five things that you can see
Four things you can touch (it helps me to imagine the texture, to think about what the items would feel like, or to actually touch things. I roll the fabric of my clothes between my fingers, stroke my eyebrow, things like that. It may sound silly but it works for me!).  
Three things you can hear (I listen to peoples conversations around me, I hum to myself, I listen to my deep breaths). 
Two things you can smell (this can be hard, but I smell any perfume I'm wearing, etc.).
and, one thing you can taste.    

If you try this grounding technique and it helps you too, please let me know :) 

(9) Use an Anxiety App 

This is a tip that I haven't personally tried, however I know many people have an app on their phone that is really beneficial for their anxiety. It may be worth finding one that's right for you before you go to Comic Con. Many of these apps will have game-like features on to help you focus your thoughts on something other than the many anxious thoughts filling your head. Other apps will also have calming sounds so you can pop your headphones in and listen to something other than the loud voices in the events hall whilst you calm down, as well as breathing exercises that are interactive. I'm definitely thinking about downloading an app for next year. 

All of these tips help me get through a day at Comic Con and I am so grateful that I now have these coping mechanisms so that I can do something that I really enjoy with minimal amounts of anxiety. It's still a struggle but not as challenging as it would be if I didn't have these methods to put me at ease. I look forward to this event every year and I can't wait to go again. I hope that my tips have been useful for others; they can be used to help you get through other events too that are similar such as fashion shows, art shows and craft fairs. I know it's easier said than done, and I too have put things off for years because of anxiety, but try not to let your mental health hold you back from doing the things you want to do!

Thankyou for reading!

 

Do you have any advice or tips that you can add to my list? 
What's something that you have overcome your anxiety to do and are proud of? 

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2 comments

  1. I've been contemplating going for ages but I have never had the courage. I'm going to bookmark this and when the time comes around to buy tickets, I'll look back on this to read your tips and I'll tell myself that everything will be okay. This really helped me and it also reminded me that I'm not alone; there are other people conquering their anxiety by going to events such as these. Thank you so much, I really enjoyed this read! I'm glad that you enjoyed your time there. ❤️

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    1. Awww I'm so glad that my post helped you :) I'm sorry for my super late response but for some reason I never got a notification for your comment. I really hope that you managed to go to Comic Con this year :) Your comment has actually made my day <3 x

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