Parks + Anxiety - Mental Health Awareness Month

I've had full intentions on getting in a post during May about mental health. May is Mental Health Awareness month, and with about one in four people suffering from a mental illness at some point in their life, it is a super important month! As someone who was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder at a fairly young age, I have to hold this month to heart because there is such a huge stigma associated with mental illnesses. With a little more awareness, people may begin to understand a little better. 

For the last ten years or so, my family has made frequent trips to Disney World for vacations. This was right about when all my anxiety came to the forefront, and to be honest, I was terrified of Disney for a while. The crowds, heat, and noise all left me feeling overwhelmed, cranky, and exhausted. If you know me now, then you'd be shocked to ever hear that I didn't want to go to the parks. Thankfully, I've spent a fair amount of time hashing out what helps when I'm feeling off, and I would love to share with you all of my tips and tricks!

If a trip to Disney (or any amusement park, for that matter) is on the horizon and stressing you out, fear not! There are so many ways to ease the anxiety no matter where you're traveling. One of the most important things for me when I go into the parks is that I am in open communication with my family about how I am feeling, and when things start to slide downhill. My family has been on this ride with me the whole time, and when you start to feel anxious, sometimes a hand squeeze or a hug can make all the difference. I always communicate with my mother before hand about how I expect to feel, and what I'm going to do in the event of a panic/anxiety attack. We have it down to a science almost in Disney, and knowing that I can find a quiet space if I need to is super comforting.

Another thing that is super important to me is that my phone is charged. If I have to break off from my group, I need to be able to get in contact with them later on! It also is super helpful to have guided meditation on your phone, so that when you find a quiet spot, you can calm down quickly. I also love games that can help to distract me from the commotion too. Portable chargers are available everywhere now, and I carry one everywhere in the parks, so I never have to worry about losing a charge. 

Hydration is something that people often overlook because they are so excited to see what the park has to offer. While it seems super basic, drinking water all day helps just about anyone to feel their best in warm, humid weather. Having a headache or feeling sick does nothing to ease anxiety, so I prefer to avoid it all together by staying hydrated. Water is so available, all you have to do is find the nearest stand or quick service and ask for an ice water. They'll give you a big cup for free!

Something that really gives me peace of mind is knowing little corners of the park that I can sit when I feel overwhelmed that are a bit off the beaten path and a little quieter. If you're headed to Disney World in Orlando, I love hanging out on the wall that is at the entrance to Storybook Circus, the area surrounding the Jungle Cruise in Adventure Land, and the Tangled themed area in Fantasy Land. I like to grab a water or snack, get comfortable, and watch the people and families walk by. I can do some deep breathing, post some pictures on Insta and come back to a baseline. 

Getting to the parks when they first open can help to beat some crowds. While I am absolutely not a morning person, in Disney, I have to be. The weather is a tad more mild in the morning, I feel rested and much more able to keep myself in check. Morning is my favorite time to be in Disney, because of short lines, and breakfast in Disney is always the best. Grab a coffee and donut from Joffrey's at the Ticket and Transportation Center and you'll be ready to go!

I hope that my experience within the parks can help you on your next trip, whether having anxiety or not! Downtime can help everyone on an amusement park trips.

If you know someone who suffers from chronic anxiety, just offer your love and support. It totally means the world to us!