SDCC Sundays: Dealing with Convention Anxiety

Anxiety.

I experience varying levels of anxiety in my regular day-to-day life but the stress of a convention tends to exacerbate it. There’s usually travel involved, scheduling, meeting people, and a constant barrage of stimulation that if I’m not careful can send me into a tizzy.

In order to help combat it, I’ve listed the main types of convention anxiety I have experienced and the things I do to combat it. 

Travel Anxiety

Most of the time conventions are not happening in my apartment. Therefore, there are varying degrees of travel necessary. For New York Comic Con I might live in NYC, but I rely on public transportation to get me there on time. For anyone who knows the MTA, the subway system can be an unpredictable question mark that requires blocking out more time than it should in order to ensure you arrive at your destination on time.

It can be stressful, uncomfortable, and anxiety-provoking to wake up knowing you have to deal with other systems to get you where you need to go. For long distance conventions, I also struggle with the stress of trains, planes, and automobiles. Where will I get gas? Do I have enough snacks and entertainment for a cross-country flight? Did I forget my ID? 

I’ve asked myself the last one way too many times in the car on the way to the airport. 

When faced with the uncertainty of traveling, I’ve come up with a few strategies. The first is to plan ahead as best you can and have alternative options in place. If you’re flying cross-country and you have a connection, try to think through and plan out all the potential ways you could deal with missing it. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but I’ve actually found it helpful to already have plans to deal with it when and if you run into the very situation that I was anxious about.

The second is to take a deep breath and remind yourself that 90% of the time people get to where they’re going and arrive when they expected to. Even though anxiety will tell you there’s a high likelihood that something will go wrong you can ground yourself in the reality of the situation. And at the end of the day there are things out of your control but you can get through them. 

Yes, even being stuck on the F train between Queens and Manhattan for half an hour when you’ve got an appointment. 

Scheduling Anxiety

This is the one I think everyone experiences. It is the sinking feeling that plagues us when the final convention schedule is laid out and we have to start making decisions. Or the feeling we get when our favorite actor, show, or writer announces a last-minute event when we already had our plan in place. If you’re like me I hate having to change a carefully crafted plan at the last minute, but when it comes to a convention it is almost always going to happen. 

My first piece of advice on this is to always have a backup plan. This is convention planning 101 but sometimes we work ourselves into scheduling boxes and get set in Plan A that Plan B never becomes fully formed. Like with traveling, anticipating last minute changes can be helpful when those last minute changes actually pop up. My next piece of advice is something I’ve said before: leave room for surprises

That second piece of advice is more than just having a plan B. It is actually leaving space to have no plan, or leaving space to tell yourself, “This is the plan, but I’m going to be willing to change a small part of it I’m not super committed to in case something fun comes up.” This is great when your favorite comic book writer announces a surprise signing at a random booth on the dealer floor. 

Odds are you will remember that last minute change more fondly than the panel for a major television show that will be on Youtube in a couple of weeks. Leave space for spontaneity. 

Meeting People Anxiety

Whether you shelled out $300 for a photo op with Mark Hamill or you’re checking out the Supernatural fan meet-up, odds are high that you are going to be meeting new people. I don’t care who you are, the prospect of meeting new people should always bring up a little bit of anxiety. If you’re one of those extroverts who doesn’t, then you’re probably not reading this post. 

When you’re meeting celebrities, writers, your favorite webcomic artist, or anyone you’ve admired from afar for a long time you’re bound to get a little starstruck. We’ve all been there. I’ve been tongue-tied and wide-eyed when meeting people before and it is never a great feeling. What I have learned over time though is a pretty simple truth: they’re people, too. 

And a lot of the time people you admire are just cheesed there are people out there who admire them. The greatest tide-changing trick for me at conventions was to put myself in the celebrity/admired person’s place. If I were a creator of something and had someone come up to me tongue tied and excited to meet me I would be beyond charmed, not annoyed. I would probably be just as excited that someone liked my work and embrace them. 

So focus on that when you’re rolling up for your autograph session, photoshoot, or booth signing. Apply the “they’re probably as scared of you as you are of them” logic, except swap out “scared” with “excited by.” 

The same really goes for meeting fellow fans, or future friends. The best part of fandom is the fact it brings people together and you all already have something in common: the fandom! Start with that as the base and just focus on being a kind person to others and it’ll all come to you. I promise. 

There’s a lot of anxiety that happens at conventions, before, during, and even afterward. It can be a long and stressful process even with how much fun it ends up being. These are only a few types of anxiety, but I hope my experiences are helpful in combating the convention anxiety. Remember, at the end of the day conventions are FUN, and there are ways to cope with the stress and anxiety to make the way for fun.