I’ve been attending various comic con events throughout the UK (and one in Germany) for the past 11 years now. It’s the perfect way for me to spend time with like-minded people, meet up with friends I don’t see very often, and meet some of the actors and actresses I admire.
But as the years have gone by and comic con has become more “mainstream”, the crowds have certainly gotten bigger! Which isn’t ideal for someone who suffers from anxiety. So with MCM Birmingham, Wales Comic-Con, and other comic con events coming up over the next few weeks, I thought I’d put together a little anxiety guide to comic con to help anyone thinking of going to one.
Anxiety Guide to Comic-Con
Do your research
Whether that’s finding out where the venue is, and how you’ll get to it, or what the floor plan is like. Planning ahead is a great way to prepare yourself for the event. I usually have a floor plan printed out, a list of who I’m meeting, panels I want to listen to etc, and a rough budget.
Get there early
This can vary, but comic con attendees can start queuing hours before the doors open. Especially if there’s a guest rare to the convention scene that they don’t want to miss out on. So get there early to give yourself time to prepare and lessen stress trying to accomplish everything you want to when the doors open.
Of course, the earlier you arrive the longer you’ll need to queue and often hours at a time. The queues are usually inside but you may also be queuing outside in the rain too. Which has happened to me on more than one occasion! To be honest, I prefer queuing outside as I feel less ‘trapped’. If this is you, try to focus on something else, I find a fidget cube is a great distraction.
Take a friend or family member
One of my triggers is feeling overwhelmed by myself and experiencing sensory overload. So having someone to talk to and take my mind off things is a great way to block out my surroundings, if I need to. Especially if I’m stuck in a queue for hours at a time!
Try getting an accessibility pass
Some but not all convention organisers offer an accessibility pass meaning that your time spent queuing is reduced. Which can be great if large crowds are one of your triggers! Often all you need is a note from your doctor or therapist to apply for one, although I never have (even though I probably should!). As I don’t want to be seen as that person that “shouldn’t be” in that queue. 😨 Increasing my anxiety even more.
Use grounding techniques
There are many grounding techniques out there, so I’d recommend trying a few until you find one that works for you. My favourites are ‘5,4,3,2,1’, where you concentrate on each of the five senses and another where you focus on certain colours. If you feel yourself getting anxious, at any point during the day, look around you and follow these points for the 5,4,3,2,1 technique.
- Find five things that you can see,
- Four things you can touch,
- Three things you can hear (this can be hard with all the background noise at comic con. So I try to focus on conversations around me or listen to one of the panels.),
- Two things you can smell,
- and, one thing you can taste.
Or if you’d prefer to try the ‘spotting colours’ technique. Take a quick look around you and focus on one colour you can see, then try to think of as many things as you can that you associate with that colour. For example, I was close to a panic attack before walking down the aisle as a bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding. My bouquet was pink and blue, so I focussed on Piglet and Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh, which helped ground me.
If you try either of these grounding techniques and they help you too, please let me know 🙂
Consider getting a hotel room nearby
Some conventions may be held in a hotel, so try to get a room at the venue if you can. I always feel better knowing there’s somewhere I can go and relax if I feel overwhelmed. Even if your convention isn’t held in a hotel I’d still recommend getting a hotel nearby if you can. You’ll be in within walking distance meaning there’s no need to use public transport after, and you can relax throughout the day if you need to.
Look after yourself
Comic-con can be both physically and mentally exhausting. You’re on your feet for a long time, likely running on very little sleep, especially if you got up very early to queue, and it can be stressful fitting in everything you want to do. As I said above it’s always worth planning ahead, but you should also make sure to take plenty of breaks throughout the day as well. To help with this I carry a water bottle with me to stay hydrated as well as snacks.
Know when to leave
I know you’ll want to have as much fun as possible but you also need to know when it’s time to. No fandom is worth triggering your anxiety for. You can always go back again when you’re feeling more relaxed, or even try one of the chill-out areas (if there is one).
How do you cope with comic con (or similar events) with anxiety? Let me know in the comments.