Monday, December 19, 2016

Attending Conventions With Social Anxiety

So full disclosure, I am not a medical professional, nor a trained therapist.  I’m just a geek with GAD and social anxiety who also likes to go to conventions.  These things often do not mix, but you can absolutely learn how to enjoy 4 days of chaotic geekdom and still come out relatively unscathed.  Read on to see some things I’ve learned and tips for making your convention visit a great one.

Opening day at GenCon 2016. So. Many. People. 

#1 - Know your triggers.  Everyone is different and you know best what brings out your anxiety.  If crowds bother you, go during week days,  avoid peek hours and allow plenty of time to get to any scheduled events so you don't have to muscle your way through.  Research the convention you are interested in.  Ask questions on social media, look for reviews of previous years, etc.  

#2 - Go with supportive people.  If you choose to go with friends to a convention, that’s great!  Just be sure they respect that your choices may be different than theirs.  Taking care of yourself isn’t selfish.  The last thing you want is to get stuck playing a 4 hour game because your ride thought it looked cool.  It’s also a lot of fun to go by yourself!  You can go at your own pace and see the things you are most interested in.

#3 - Take time out even if you don’t feel like you need it.   I cannot emphasize this one enough.  Schedule time out each day to decompress.   Many attendees don’t have the luxury of getting a room in a nearby hotel, but you can still find quiet areas to relax for a bit.  Bring ear buds and load favorite podcasts, playlists, etc. on your phone.   Download a meditation app such as Headspace and take a few minutes to just breathe. 

#4 – Remember to eat and drink.  Things get super busy and this is easy to forget.   Set alerts in your phone to remind you.  Finding food options can take a while, so do some research on the area and be prepared to wait.  Bring some healthy snacks with you just in case and always keep a water bottle.  Most convention centers have water coolers so you can refill at no cost. 

#5 - Don’t be a hero.  It’s completely ok to try a small convention first to get your feet wet or just get a single day pass.  You can have a ton of fun at small, local conventions and day passes are a great way to try new things. 

#6 – You cant try everything.    You will be presented with hundreds to tens of thousands of options.  Know ahead of time that you wont see everything.  Try and do a bit of research to get an idea of what will be at your convention of choice and keep an eye on social media to see what people are talking about.

Squirrel Girl and Tippy Toe, FTW!
#7 – Represent.  Wear your favorite geeky clothing or try going in costume.  If cosplay is not your thing, that’s totally cool.  However, wearing something from your favorite fandom or dressing as a character you love provides a fun conversation starter and can help you feel connected to something.  It can also give you an extra dose of courage.  Regular you may feel nervous and apprehensive, but you in a Furiosa costume?  Unstoppable.  Dress for the job you want, right?

#8 – Try something new.  I like to make a point to try something completely new each convention I go to.  It might be a craft, a game, a costume or something I didn’t know about until I got there!  Conventions are great because even if you make a fool out of yourself, you’ll probably not see these people again, so why not?  You might just gain a new skill, hobby or friend!

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