I love music festivals. To me, a good festival is other worldly, where you can get lost in the music and the atmosphere. With a mental health condition though, the very idea of attending can feel overwhelming, and a daunting task. I’ve put together a survival list that should not only allow you to cope, but also have a fun and memorable time.
Research festivals Finding a festival that suits your music tastes is important, but also one that allows you to feel secure in the environment around you. For instance, there may be a festival in your local town, so you don’t have to camp (and the added benefit of being able to shower in your own home)! Festivals all have they’re unique vibe, so it’s a good idea to look into what the general atmosphere is like before booking tickets.
Get plenty of sleep For me, a lack of sleep is a major trigger for my mental illness. If I miss out on sleep for a couple of days it can cause a bout of depression or mania. Regular, good quality sleep for any mental health problem is vital. Take some earplugs with you to drown out noise, and don’t feel pressured to stay up all night; if you need to sleep it will make the next few days much more enjoyable.
Take time out Festivals are loud and in your face. They’re full of excitable people, strangers and the unexpected. You don’t need to be partying every single second of the weekend. Not everyone likes to admit it, but none of us can be on the go constantly. Instead plan what you want to see and add to that times when you can take it easy. Whether that’s sitting watching the world go by, or going back to your tent for a breather.
Pack and take your medication It’s so important to not neglect your medications whilst at a festival. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll take them later.” Put an alarm on your phone and take them when you normally would. A sudden withdrawal from medications can make you feel mentally and physically extremely unwell. Don’t be put off taking them with you. Your bag may be searched so take your prescription script with you to confirm these are your medications and for your use only.
Plan your day This will help you feel more secure and give structure to each day. It can be as loose or as itemised as you want it to be, we’re all different when it comes to planning! A plan will help you remember to take time out, and when to take your medications.
Go with a group This is good advice for anyone, mental health condition or not. A group is more fun, but also safer. If you lose friends at a festival, the likelihood is you’ll never be separated from everyone when you’re in a group, or for long. Make sure it’s with people you trust that understand you may find the weekend difficult. Chances are when you need to take time out or need a rest, someone else in the group will be feeling exactly the same way.
Tell someone if you’re struggling Bottling up that you’re finding things difficult can ruin a festival weekend. As I’ve already said, going with a like minded, caring group of people is the best option. There might only be a couple of people you feel you can confide in, so tell them before the festival that you may need some support at some point. If they’re true friends, they won’t mind sitting out the festival for awhile to be there for you.
Know your limits I mean this in terms of how much you can see and get involved in during the weekend, but also alcohol and other drugs. Being forced by others to do more, drink more, take more, is not ok. Think about what you are capable of and comfortable with before the festival starts. This isn’t an easy one, as personally it has taken me years to realise what my limits are, and stick to them.
I hope this post has been helpful, and feel free to add your own tips in the comments!