As someone who’s had some pretty bad anxiety for a few years, I’ve had my fair share of panic attacks – and as live editor and a gig lover, a lot of them have happened at gigs. I’m pretty sure my first big one was at BST Hyde Park for The Libertines, where having been fine at the front all day, all of a sudden more people were coming into our section and it was quickly filling. I knew I just had to get out, and as soon as I started trying to leave mostly everyone was lovely about it. Ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown ‘needing to leave the venue my chest feels like it’s caving in’, it’s safe to say I’ve picked up a few tips over the years on how to keep yourself feeling calm while at a gig so you can, hopefully, enjoy your night.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed easily and quickly at a gig, so a fast way to calm yourself down is grounding techniques. A common sensory awareness technique is ‘54321’, you think of 5 things you can see, 4 you can feel (even just air going through your nose), 3 you can hear, 2 you can smell (or 2 smells you like), and 1 good thing about yourself. It’s a distraction technique that also brings you back to the present moment, and hopefully, brings some calm!
If you know you get anxious when you’re at gigs, then before you go try to work out what you don’t like about them. For example, do you actually like being in the pit? Or do you prefer being further away from it so you can watch without being jostled? Whenever I can I like to be further back, by the sound booth for example, or on the balcony – I have an amazing view still, but I’m much less likely to get pushed around which is incredibly comforting to know.
Aim to get to the venue way before the bands are actually due to be on (so if doors are at 7 get there for 6.40) so you can be one of the first people in. This will mean you’ll be able to find yourself a space you’re comfortable in, and you’ll be able to get used to the venue so you can be super relaxed for when the gig starts.
Go to the bar for some water and step outside for some fresh air. You’ll likely just have to show your ticket or your hand if they stamped it as you entered, and getting into an open space and sipping water can help any anxiety you may have. Something else that may help is to focus on your breathing, the standard ‘in through your nose, out through your mouth’ if your breathing’s been shallow then this can help you bring it back to normal.
Let the people you’re with know. When I went to The xx’s sold out show, my friend went to get water for us but I quickly realised I should have been the one to go, because being responsible for saving both of our spaces and surrounded by people I didn’t know in a part of London I wasn’t familiar with was a tiny bit triggering for my anxiety. Tell your friends and if they’re good people they’ll understand.
Hopefully this little guide will help you to Keep Calm and Gig On, without anxiety getting in the way!