Are you preparing for your first festival or are you looking for some tips to better enjoy the experience? We put together some advice for festival-goers to mind their mental health during the festival season.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services CEO, Paul Gilligan, said; “Large outdoor music festivals are about music, fun and having a good time, but unfortunately they can and will pose many health related risks, many of those resulting from increased use of drugs and alcohol. All psychoactive drugs (including legal drugs such as alcohol, as well as illicit drugs, such as cannabis, amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine) have the potential to cause both short and long-term mental health problems. Festival-goers need to be aware and mindful of this fact”.

Effects caused by psychoactive drugs include:

  • Drug induced anxiety disorder: You may have a panic attack – periods of very severe anxiety when your heart rate increases, with trembling, sweats, shortness of breath, and a fear of losing control.
  • Drug-induced psychosis: You may have delusions or hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that are not there.
  • Drug-induced mood disorder: You may feel depressed – sad, restless, irritable, tired, loss of pleasure, manic.

For anyone living with an anxiety disorder, attending a music festival can be a daunting challenge. Dr Michael McDonough, Consultant Psychiatrist on the Anxiety Programme at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services has the following advice for festival-goers:

Planning and Support: being organised is important as is having trusted friends for support but over-preparing and trying to fully control events can often increase anxiety and panic as things rarely go exactly as planned. Try to go with the flow and give yourself over to the experience as much as possible. By all means have a back-up plan agreed with your family or friends if things don’t work out e.g. a quiet place to retreat to, but be aware spikes of anxiety will often settle down after a 15-20 minutes.

Panic Attack: If you feel a panic coming on, it is often best to “go with it”. This is similar to the meditational idea of “detached acceptance”. Test out whether the panic will really harm you by riding it out. Stay in the situation if you can until panic subsides. Learn that although very unpleasant panic isn’t dangerous and won’t cause lasting harm.

Sleep and Fatigue: It is not the easiest thing to get at a music festival but try to get as much sleep as you can or at least good periods of rest. Lack of sleep can contribute to overall anxiety and stress.

Hydration and Alcohol: Stay hydrated over the weekend. Dehydration can contribute to dizziness, fatigue and anxiety. Alcohol can help ease anxiety in the short term but is not helpful in the long run. Panics often come on during the hangover phase when the body is in a rebound anxiety state. If you suffer with anxiety, alcohol is best avoided if possible but if you are taking alcohol use it in moderation to enhance the experience and not as a way of managing or suppressing anxiety.

So the message from St Patrick’s Mental Health Services is to be aware and take care, but remember to have fun and enjoy the experience!

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