YALC is almost upon us and with it comes a lot of nerves, a lot of excitement and a lot of fun! But how do you get through the weekend when you’re struggling with anxiety? Today I wanted to write a little post with my tips and tricks on how I have survived this convention every year (bar one) while riding the anxiety wave.
If you’re anything like me, then you probably like to know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. Part of this is also the OCD part of my brain but I also know that I can deal with my anxiety a lot better if I have a good plan in place. And, I don’t just mean a plan for the event itself either.
I will always plan the evening before. I always need to prepare myself for the event which usually means that the evening before is full of self-care. For me that is often reading or watching TV while I check over my plan for the next day.
I also plan my travel. I plan what will happen if everything goes smoothly but also what to do if something goes wrong. Last year there was a problem with the trains arriving at Olympia and we didn’t realise until the evening beforehand. It caused a lot of stress but as I planned it out the evening before, we were able to deal with it with minimal issues. Because I’ll be travelling by train again this year, I have worked out what to do if the train is cancelled or delayed and this will help lower my travel anxiety.
The same has happened for when I get to YALC. I remember from every year I’ve been, that entering the building is always incredibly overwhelming. It’s always bigger than I remember and always busier too. The layout is often different and everyone is as lost and confused as you are, which is a quick way to make me feel incredibly anxious.
But now I know that, I always plan for it. I always aim to allow myself at least five minutes to orient myself when I first arrive. Whether that means just finding bag drop and leaving my bag or if it means having a quick stroll through the arena. It is simply time to get my bearings and allow myself to acclimatize – if you will.
With that in mind, I always make sure that I actually don’t plan anything else too heavily. The one thing I have learnt about YALC is that you might want to go and see x panel or go to y workshop but when you finally get to the convention, those plans sometimes fall through. So my advice on this is to create a high, medium and low priority plan. I would also advise only having a few high priority items in your plan. Other things will always crop up and get in the way – longer signing queues, ARC drops, friend chats, even those irritating anxiety and panic attacks. So it’s good to know that if something does happen, you can just take some time out of your schedule if you need it.
So this is similar to above but also different. By this I mean, ensure that you have with you everything that you feel you will need. For me, this is my anxiety meds, snacks (because of my restrictive diet I can’t really eat in the venue), plenty of water – especially as it will be hot, and (incidentally) a book to read. These are things I need to keep my anxiety low but also things that will help me when my anxiety spikes.
Along this route, remember that it is likely to be hot at YALC so do pack a fan if you have one and have room!
Being prepared for me also includes packing my bag the night before. This means I know I can wake up and just grab my bag and run out the door. I can pack it when I’m not feeling nervous and anxious so I am more likely to not forget anything.
Find a Quiet Place
YALC gets busy. YALC is more than likely to get overwhelming. If you’re anything like me, that means you are probably going to need a few minutes every little while to regain your bearings. Thus when I first scout out the convention, I also make a note of quiet nooks and crannies so that I know that I can return to those places when it all becomes too much for me. This can be in the YALC part of the hall or it can be down in the lobby by the entrance – which does actually get quite quiet at the right times!
There is also the bathroom but do be careful as it can get quite loud and busy in there too.
The best thing about this tip is that a lot of us are all feeling anxious too so if you’re sitting alone, you shouldn’t be disturbed or if you are, you should be able to just ask to be alone and it won’t be a problem. We’re all very friendly and understanding in the community and will definitely help out if you need it.
If you’re one of those very brave souls who is coming to the convention on their own and are feeling really anxious about this, the best thing to do is to let the people of Twitter know that you’re coming and ask if anyone else is going alone or if anyone is happy to meet up when you get there. If that doesn’t work as planned, when you get there, try striking up conversations in the queues or in the panels.
Or, if you’re really too shy to do that – go it alone! There’s nothing wrong with being on your own. It means you can get books signed by whomever you want, you can go to whatever panel you want to and you can see whichever booths you want to when you wish to. While it might seem like going alone will be lonely, just remember that the event is going to be very busy and we’re all there for our love of reading so no one will judge you for pulling out a book! [As a side note, I have been alone to YALC a few times and always have just as much fun as when I go with friends!]
Meeting New Friends
YALC is a chance to finally meet those people on Twitter that you’ve been speaking to for ages or those bloggers you’ve been following for a while and this is wonderful. YALC is a safe space to meet these people. Some bloggers – myself included – will be wearing lanyards with our blog names and twitter handles on so that you can easily recognise us but if you’re feeling shy or anxious about meeting people, you can try tweeting people firsthand or DMing them and see if they’ll come to you.
Also remember that some bloggers might be just as anxious as you are but we honestly love meeting new bookish people – especially if you tell us how much you admire our blogs!
If you are meeting new friends for the first time and are feeling very anxious about it, again do tell the people you’re meeting and ask them if they can approach you and in an open area of the convention. While nothing should happen, it is always better to be on the safe side.
Once it’s all happened, I am positive that your anxiety will melt away and you will end up having a wonderful time with your new friends.
What to do if you have an anxiety or panic attack
If it all becomes far too much and you do end up having an anxiety or panic attack, try and do any of your coping mechanisms that you already have or, if you can, tell a member of either the YALC staff or anyone on the booths. As mentioned above, we’re all very friendly and understanding and I am positive that they’ll help get you some water or be able to talk you down.
Incidentally if you see me during an attack and I don’t look to be freaking out myself, please do come and tell me and I will definitely help to make you feel calmer if I can. Even if it’s just asking people to give you some space in a queue.
Lastly, if you see someone who looks like they might be having an attack but might be alone, why not try and ask if they’re okay. But do not touch them or get too close. Just stand near them and ask if you can do anything to help.
We’re All Humans
Don’t forget, you’re definitely not the only one in that convention hall that will be brimming with anxiety. I already know a large portion of bloggers who are feeling anxious about the event and I am aware that there are also authors feeling the same way too. So you will not be suffering alone. So do talk to people if you have to – and you might just be surprised by the responses you get.
So, those are just some things I’ve done in the past that have helped me and I hope that they might help you.
I’ll be around on the Friday so if you’re there, do pop along and say hi! I have anxiety myself and get very shy at events like this but do feel free to tweet or DM me if you want to meet and I’ll make sure to come say hi.