August 30, 2023 at 10:26 AM PT
How to Combat Social Anxiety at Raves & Music Festivals
The topic of coping and dealing with social anxiety at raves and music festivals has been on the rise. According to Social Anxiety Association, SAD (Social Anxiety Disorder) is the third-largest mental health problem in the world, but here’s the paradox. A survey conducted by Harris Poll and Eventbrite found that more than 75 percent of millennials would rather pay for an experience than material things. The rave and music festival scene is once again booming due to the rising demand after the 2020/2021 COVID lockdowns shut the world down. With things on the way back to the norm with raves and music festivals, you can bet that more and more people in the community are wondering how they will ever be able to cope with their social anxiety. The generation that loves to attend raves and music festivals is also the generation that suffers the most from anxiety. It is a paradox that can only be addressed by bringing more awareness to the problem.
While I’m not a doctor by any means, I do have over 15+ years of experience as a raver and music festival-goer who has been observing my own behaviors as well as the behaviors of my friends and industry peers over the years and seeing firsthand the triggers of social anxiety and the side effects of it both short term and long term. Social anxiety doesn’t just affect you in social environments but often the shame or remorse that comes after the raves and music festival experience and the more we become aware of these triggers, the better we are to prepare for the mental battle ahead.
Below are just some of my suggested tips on how you can best combat social anxiety the next time you attend a rave or a music festival.
It’s Okay to feel socially anxious: you’re not the only one
As mentioned above, social anxiety disorder is the third largest mental health problem in the world meaning that in a sea of ravers and festival-goers there are probably hundreds if not tens of thousands of people who are feeling the same as you! I too have social anxiety at times and just because the people around you seem outgoing, jolly, and rolling their face-off doesn’t mean they are not feeling anxious or any other way. To think that you’re the only one suffering from social anxiety is what will trigger you even more eventually leading down to a “bad trip” all because you’re freaking out that you’re the only one feeling this way. Even promoters and event organizers get anxious before, during, and after the show dealing with insurmountable obstacles after obstacles just to keep the show running as smooth as possible.
A big part of improving our mental health disorder is to become mentally aware of what is really happening and going on in us. Being aware that you’re not alone can subside the trigger and put you more at ease. After all, the feeling of being socially anxious often stems from not fitting in or being judged by people. To know that the sea of people around you including the promoters who are putting on the show is possibly all going through the same anxious feelings (though some just hide it better) will give you a newfound perspective on your own socially anxious feelings.
The next time you and your friends are feeling socially anxious at raves and music festivals understand and be aware that you’re not alone. We’re all in this together one way or another, social anxiety is real af and the more we accept it as a norm in the rave and festival community the easier it will be for us to cope and combat it.
Make your way toward the dancefloor (music) immediately
Research and studies have shown that music has many benefits when it comes to altering our moods and brain function. After all, you are attending a music event whether it’s at a club, a rave, or a massive festival. The purpose should be to go and enjoy the music, and as such you should intentionally make your way toward the dancefloor as soon as you enter the venue. Why? So you can feel the vibrations that will rumble your soul for the better; just be sure to wear earplugs.
Most people will admit that hearing and feeling the rumble of bass at events and festivals helps subsides their social anxiety because that’s what music does, it heals us in ways we can’t even imagine.
Making your way immediately to where the music is might be a bit difficult task if you are attending a large festival like EDC or Ultra with a group of people or worse, one of your friends is trying to meet up with a bigger group (cue anxiety trigger). The best way to handle this situation is to let it be known that whoever it is you’re going with is that your main purpose is to enjoy the music and it would be appreciated if you can head there immediately once everyone is settled in the venue or simply pick a meet-up spot for your friends to find you later while you make your way to the dancefloor.
Sometimes anxiety gets triggered even more when you feel trapped or unable to do what you want to do and we all know of a friend (in a group) who tries to control every aspect of everyone’s festival experience. Do yourself a favor….run to the dancefloor and set yourself free. Music heals and does wonders. Give yourself 20-30 minutes of uninterrupted flow of music and dance. I guarantee you’ll come out of there with a better vibe, and all of a sudden that large group of people your friends wanted to meet up with wouldn’t be so intimidating anymore while allowing you to socialize (gasp!). Make a self-introduction and hopefully connect with people and new friends in meaningful ways later into the evening and morning light.
Mentally prepare to be social
You’re probably thinking wtf? I hate being social why would you tell me to mentally prepare to be social? Well here’s the thing, just because you hate being social doesn’t mean social situations don’t come around and slap you in the face from time to time. Going to clubs, raves, and festivals all have a very, very high chance that you might run into someone you know. There’s no escaping it unless you don’t ever go out or you’re in a foreign city or country, but even then, you think people in foreign places won’t ask you for a cig or a lighter? Social situations can occur at any moment and if you know that the anxiety you’re being triggered by is through social situations then the best way to combat it is to mentally prepare for it.
I have seen firsthand some of my close friends and peers prepare themselves before they go out to readily engage in situations they would normally feel anxious about. Yes, we’re that close where they feel comfortable being weird around me but it totally works. I have done this as well before when I didn’t even know I had anxiety but knew I didn’t really like awkward silences and not being able to smile and say hi properly. These are normal triggers of social anxiety and being mentally prepared for it can help you better adapt when the moment does occur.
In the book, Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson, he says that he made Michael Jordan and the entire Bulls team during the 90s era, as well as Kobe Bryant and Shaq and the entire Lakers team in the 2000s era, do situational meditation putting them in stressful thinking situations such as being in the 4th quarter down by 6 with only minutes remaining in the game.
The purpose of this meditation is to put them in that exact difficult and uncomfortable situation before it actually happens so they can pre-meditate on it and thus think more clearly and act more focused when the situation does arise. To this day, all of the players who have played and won for Phil Jackson can attest that this method is the reason why they outperformed teams during stressful situations in the game.
Your mind can play tricks on you, but in the reverse of that, your mind can also be a source of strength for you to overcome stress and anxiety. Use the latter to your advantage to combat the unavoidable social situations ahead.
Instead of asking “How are you?” simply make a statement saying “hey it’s good to see you here! When did you get to the party?” the next follow-up questions can be about their experience at the show. “How are you liking the music or the artist playing or the vibe of the party?”
You want to have these questions ready so you can direct the conversation and make others talk, and you just nod politely until it’s time to get back to the dancefloor.
Slow down on the substances
While many people think using and abusing substances (drugs and alcohol) may help them socialize better. What most don’t realize is the long-term side effects of substance abuse and usage over time which can cause severe anxiety or panic attacks. Think about it, we all know suppressing things are bad for us whether its feelings or an illness, the more we do things to avoid and suppress the stronger they eventually become over time and that’s exactly what’s happening when people use substances to suppress anxiety; it eventually comes back stronger.
The most common type of substance that triggers anxiety post-usage are usually the type that comes with the biggest comedown (alcohol, ecstasy/MDMA, cocaine, meth, speed, heroin, and other similar stimulants). Everyone is free to choose what they put in their body and this section isn’t here to judge anyone but rather to bring some awareness of what could be triggering social anxiety. Let’s not kid ourselves here, the millennial generation has paved the way for the modern party-rockstar era and with it comes lots of drugs and alcohol usage.
In recent times, there are more research and studies showing the benefits of alternative substances such as psychedelics and marijuana as those types of substances have been known to combat anxiety and depression without the same consequences as harder substances such as cocaine, meth, and ecstasy. Perhaps, this is why there is a resurgence of psychedelic usage amongst ravers.
This is not to encourage in any way for you to use these substances, and always educate yourself before trying new things. Oftentimes, what triggers social anxiety is what we put in our body (including caffeine) so just be aware of these things and perhaps give it a try on attending an event or music festival sober which we know has been a big problem for the global electronic music industry
At the end of the day, we’re all adults here so make the right choices for you but don’t be the person that complains or worries about their social anxiety but ends up racking an eight-ball every weekend. Understand that what you put into your body (in most cases your nose) will have a significant impact on how you cope and overcome social anxiety. Drugs are bad but they’re fun….choose your fun wisely.
Get some fresh air and avoid unnecessary small-talk
One of the most highly recommended actions you can take when suffering from anxiety is to get some fresh air and the same applies when you’re at an event or festival. Therefore, go get some fresh air whenever you need to. If raving was a sport, this would be like you calling a quick time-out in the middle of an intense battle. In this case, we’re talking about the rave battle. With the dancefloor cramming in as the party gets deeper and later into the night, your need for fresh air will be vital to keep your anxiety levels down. However, beware of the people who have over-indulged in their “fun” and their extrovert-talkative personality comes out in full force seeking anyone who is willing to hear their small-talk, their self-absorbed dialogues and the never-ending questions of “how are you doing?” This will get you thinking:”For f*cks sake, I’m good, Leave me alone” (If only we could really say that to people’s faces)…
The trick in getting some fresh air is not to avoid social situations but to simply get some fresh air and breathe. This is your time to unwind, stretch, get some refreshments, hydrate, and recoup a bit before jumping back into the dancefloor. If anyone approaches you outside of asking for time, a smoke, or a lighter be sure to keep it brief and don’t get too deep in any conversation where it would be rude to abruptly abandon the situation which is why it’s important to avoid as much unnecessary small-talk as possible.
Live in the moment and soak it all in
Do you know what else gives us anxiety? The thing you’re probably holding up to your face right now reading this article, yep it’s your smartphone. More and more research shows using our phones specifically, social media apps can trigger anxiety in all shapes and sizes. It’s bad enough you have to deal with real people trying to talk your ears off but pulling up your phone every 5-10 minutes when you’re supposed to be enjoying the music is counterproductive.
There’s nothing worse than to see attendees who claim to “love” being at shows and festivals but only care about taking selfies, videos of the DJ. They’re doing everything else besides living in the moment aka dancing to the music without any distractions. When you live in the moment, oftentimes you are most at peace.
Think about people who meditate, hike, or journal. They have to live in the moment because that’s all they got in front of them. They cannot journal and use their phones at the same time nor can they meditate and use their phone at the same time either. For hikers, most of the trails do not have good service, and using your phone while hiking can cause you to slip and fall off the trails.
When we live in the moment, we tend to forget about everything else because the present is all we have. Anxiety is usually triggered by something from the past or a worry about the future, therefore, in order to best combat those past negative feelings and future bad trips, we must do everything in our power to try and live in the moment for that reason.
I know it’s easier said than done because we live in this digital age now and there’s no turning back. The demographic below Gen Z and X are all growing up with the device in their faces before they can even walk or talk. This is the leading cause of anxiety in our current society and we need to do everything in our power to help the next wave of people understand the underlying cause of their anxiety. We have never lived in a society where smartphones and tablets ruled our lives so we must become aware that while they are tools to help advance society, there are negative features within those devices that can cause an entire world to be anxious and depressed.
Next time you’re at an event, put your phone on silent and only check it for communications purposes with your friends or family. This will not only help reduce your anxiety to check the phone but will also help improve the vibe of the party you’re attending.
Journal and reflect on your own experience
In late 2019, I began intensely journaling almost every day about my thoughts, my feelings, my perspectives, and all my emotions just to get it out on paper and off my mind and chest. Whenever I feel anxious or misaligned with my life I would go back to the journal and write it out. What happens when we journal is we reflect, we think back, and we replay things in our minds to gain a better understanding so we can better move forward.
Journaling in itself is a very peaceful activity and forces you to be in the present moment with a pen and paper, you cannot do anything else besides writing. For those that have extreme social anxiety or anxiety of any form use the journal to understand yourself, document what makes you anxious? who makes you anxious? and what situations or people help reduce your anxiety? These are all interpersonal questions you need to start asking yourself in a journal so you can sit and reflect. By reflecting, you are about to identify the triggers better, able to avoid them as much as possible, and hopefully be able to come up with a solution that works for you.
Journaling and reflecting can do wonders for your soul, give it a try and really go deep with yourself. Sometimes the best conversations are the ones you have with your mind through a pen and a notebook. Don’t have a journal? Pick one up from our shop.
When ALL else fails, get professional help
I’d like to reiterate that none of the stuff you read up until now is official medical advice which is why I strongly encourage you to seek professional help and counseling when all else fails.
Look, I get it…when you’re in your own state of mind whether it’s anxiety or depression nothing we do or say can move the needle. The last thing I want to do is to be that guy who tells you to scroll back up to the top and read this entire article again because even if you do, it won’t change how you feel especially when we are talking about a chronic state of anxiety or depression.
When all else fails, go seek medical help and know that it’s 100,000% OK and to make sure you know it’s really okay to get help. After all, your friends and family want to see you get well, lead a positive life, and crush dancefloors across the world.
In a non-cheesy wholesome way, I want to see you get better so you can go live your best life.
If you found this article helpful in your battle with social anxiety why not share this with a friend or family who may be experiencing the same thing? Anxiety is no joke, let’s all do our part to take care of each other in the rave community.