Conventions are a lot of fun, but when you have anxiety things can get upsetting fast. Preparation is the key to having a good time and being ready for a possible freak out moment.
Here is what I put in my convention survival kit for a happy con.
1.) Portable Battery
Nothing is higher on my anxiety trigger list than my phone dying and me not being able to call for help. Keep a power station, like the myCharge HubPlus, on you to keep your power steady.
2.) Beverage of Choice
For some, herbal tea is the way to go for calming your nerves. For others its plain water. Whatever your hydration of choice is, keep some chilled in a water bottle to help soothe your anxious soul.
3.) Coloring Kit
I created my own small coloring book from freebie print pages on the internet and used a loose leaf ring to put them together. My coloring book is small enough I can hang it from my belt with a small chain so they are easily accessible to me without digging through my bag. I also have a set of small pens I keep in a pouch for easy access.
4.) Anti-Bacterial Soap/Face Mask
No one wants to leave with con crud and these two items will protect you from just that. You can find some stylish reusable masks on Amazon. While they are becoming popular at cons, a face mask might bring attention to you, so only wear one if you are comfortable with it.
On a crowded con floor, you can’t hear yourself think sometimes. This is a trigger for me so I keep my AirPods on me at all times to listen to music and distract my brain from the noise around me. If you have noise-canceling headphones, even better! Stop, Breathe, and Think is an app you can download for free (iOS and Android) and it has some great meditation tracks on it. My therapist highly recommends it.
6.) Sunglasses and Hat
The Marvel disguise kit is my go-to for when I am having a moment and don’t want people to see how upset I am. Sunglasses hide my eyes (which is great, especially if I’ve been crying) and the hat makes me feel like no one can really see me and I can slip away unnoticed.
7.) Emergency Cards
I designed business cards with a short description of what anxiety is and how the person can help that I carry on me. On the front, it simply says, “I’m having a panic attack. Please call (phone number goes here) and tell them where I’m at.” This gets me the help I need without me trying to explain through a panic attack what is going on.
8.) Stress Ball or Fidget
Something you can fidget with can help you expend that nervous energy. Fidget spinners are great for this kind of thing.
9.) Essential Oils
Oils like peppermint, lemon, vetiver, patchouli, lavender, clary sage, and bergamot are popular to use with anxiety. Try them out and carry the one that helps you the most. I dab my oils on my wrist and on my forehead to soothe me or get an infusor necklace cheap on Amazon and drop the oil on the provided pad. A necklace is less conspicuous if you need to grab a sniff or two.
The food lines can be horrific at cons and you’re not always near them at that. Bring some healthy snacks that you can eat without too much fuss. (I like grapes and Nutri-Grain bars, personally.)
Portable Game System/Tablet
My Nintendo DS is vital to helping me in those long panel lines. It keeps me from anxiously checking (and draining) my phone and it gives my mind something constructive to do. If you prefer the calming effects of reading, bring a book or take a tablet with your book collection and dive into a good story while you wait.
Besides carrying my anxiety reducing tools, I also have a couple of pieces of advice worth following if you plan to go to a convention:
Ask for an ADA Badge!
Anxiety disorders are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many conventions have special stickers/badges/bracelets you can get that allow you to use the ADA entrances, exits, and panel lines. True story. I was extremely anxious about getting my photo with John Barrowman (Arrow, Dr. Who) and I almost canceled the photo opp. The volunteer saw my distress, I told her I was ADA and had issues in crowds and she moved me to the front of the line with the wheelchairs. Crisis averted and photo achieved!
Ask If There’s a Quiet Room
Star Wars Celebration a few years back had a designated quiet room for those that needed a sensory break. If the convention doesn’t have one, put in a request that they consider it for the following year. For the immediate need though, a staff member might be able to tell you where there’s a quiet spot for you to chill for a moment.
Con floors can be like giant escape rooms. You are not always near an exit and you have to overcome a dozen obstacles to get out. Study the convention floor plan before you go in and designate the spots you can use to exit fast or just calm down in a quiet spot.
No matter how you conquer the convention scene this year, do it safely. Be aware of your surroundings and reach out to convention staff members if you need help.