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As someone diagnosed with quite severe social anxiety, being out in the world is scary enough. But having to deal with a phobia of public transport too? Not ideal.
Since I'm in my second year of University, I have done a fair bit of travelling to and fro, and so I have developed a few useful techniques to avoid the dreaded toilet cubicle panic attack or repeat that one time I was so panicked I was wandering the streets of Nottingham in sheer panic for 40 mins because I could not find the coach stop (which was literally the same street as the tram stop I had got off.
Tip 1: Packing
As part of my anxiety, I often suffer from checking—this is an anxiety symptom whereby you obsessively check your bag and self about one million times. So, by taking the time to carefully pack everything (one or two days before travelling) in a way that means everything is tightly packed, but I can also very easily see the most important things, it helps make this easier.
Tip 2: Carrying Luggage
If I know that the travelling is going to include some walking and stairs, I tend to ensure I have only what I need in my case, I am not a physically strong person, so being able to manoeuvre with the case is important (especially as my anxiety tends to make me a rather quick walker).
Tip 3: Bumbag!!
Yes, I know they aren't flattering, and yes I know they feel weird, but just hear me out. If my travelling involves airports I normally use a bumbag to keep the essentials—all transport tickets, my phone, some form of wearther's original sweets (helps with travel sickness). This helps because I know I have them on hand when I need them (links back to my checking needs) and is easy to take on and off whilst keeping an eye on it at all times.
Tip 4: Print out of ticket and mobile data
Having these to hand is just easier for convenience and having more than one way to access your tickets is a great back up.
Tip 5: Download something easy to watch, but also have music accessible too (having a calm acoustic playlist is also recommended).
I prefer to download a few episodes of a light-hearted show with comedy for travelling, as it can give me something to focus on but also is not the end of the world if I get distracted.
Tip 6: Plan out your journey with plenty of time
Anxiety will only get worse if you are rushing around, making sure that you have a good gap between each step of the journey means that you can ensure you're in the right place in plenty of time. Worse case scenario, you get their too early so read a book, listen to music, or people watch while you wait.
Tip 7: Removable layers and hair up
I'm a cold person, like literally, I'm always cold. But when I get anxious I tend to get a bit hot and sweaty, so having layers that you can easily take off and store easily is useful for those moments. I've also found having hair up in a bun or clipped out of my face helps as well, it's one less thing to get in your face and make you uncomfortable. Definitely wear comfortable clothes too.
Tip 8: If travelling with someone, make sure they are aware of your anxieties.
It's not the most cheerful thing to talk about, but just saying something as simple as 'just so you know, I get a bit anxious when travelling' will be useful. This will mean that hopefully the person you are with will acknowledge when you start showing signs of anxiety, without pushing it or making it worse. It's great if you're with someone who understands it and knows you well enough to help you cope with it, but if not, at least they are aware of why your behaviour may have changed.
Tip 9: Sit near the front or near an exit
Being close by to where you'll be getting off saves you the stress of trying to push through crowds of people and rush to make it before you miss your stop.
Tip 10: Finally, be kind to yourself
Congratulate yourself after each successful step of the journey, remind yourself of why you are doing this, and be accepting of yourself. It's okay to feel a bit irrational, it's okay to not feel comfortable. It's an adventure, embrace it!