1.) Be Prepared
About a week before going away I like to start getting organised. I plan out my outfits for the weekend, go shopping for anything I need and make a list of what to pack. I like to spread this out over the week so that I’m not flustered trying to get everything ready the night before or the day of. This also means that on the day I’m leaving I’m not in a rush and have time to take a breather and calm my thoughts. Leaving everything to the last minute just makes you stressed which you really don’t need on top of anxiety.
Create your own schedule for YALC listing the key things that you want to do over the weekend and the time and day that they’re on. The thing about YALC is that so many amazing things are happening all at once and it’s impossible to do everything you want to so don’t expect to. I think it’s important to be realistic about what you can do with your anxiety. Don’t put pressure on yourself to join a massive queue if you know that it’s going to trigger your anxiety. Know your limitations and do what you’re comfortable with and make time in your schedule for lots of chances to step away from the crowds and take a break.
If you can, try to arrive at the venue early. The crowds waiting to get in are pretty insane and the sooner you can get in the less time you have to stand in them. It’s also a good idea to take some time before any events start to get your bearings. Know where the nearest exit, toilet and food stand is in case you need them. Try and find a quiet spot to set as a meeting point with your friends in case you lose each other in the crowd or go to different panels. The more I know about an area the more comfortable I feel.
I love the idea of cosplaying and I love looking at other people’s costumes but for me personally being comfortable comes first. I know that if I was to dress up I’d constantly worry if my outfit was okay and I couldn’t deal with strangers looking at me or taking pictures. It also gets very hot in the venue and I know I’d feel more comfortable in my comfy trainers and a favourite t-shirt. On the other hand if you’d feel more confident taking on the persona of a badass character or want to represent your favourite fandom by wearing a themed outfit then you do that! Ignore what your friends and other people are doing and do what feels the most comfortable to you.
Make sure you take with you something that calms you. This could be a book that you can get lost in, a favourite playlist on your phone to listen to or some soothing hand cream to massage into your hands. Have something with you that can be pulled out any time that you can feel anxiety creeping on to distract you from how you’re feeling and take your mind off what’s bothering you.
This tip also ties back in to being prepared. I like to make things as easy as I can for myself by being organized. A great tip I learnt from going to a lot of author signings is to pack your books in the order that you’ll need them for each signing. Then once they’re signed place them at the bottom of your bag. This will save a lot of time and saves you taking all of your books out to look for a particular book every time. I also like to place a post it note with my name on the title page of each book ready for the author to sign and dedicate your book to you. This is especially helpful to them if you have an unusual name or it can be spelled in different ways take Claire and Clare for example.
So anybody going to YALC who has anxiety should know that The Reading Zone is a safe haven from the craziness that is LFCC. I honestly don’t think I would have survived a day without it last year. The YALC organizers have already confirmed that it will be back again this year. It’s a quiet place to take a breather or sit and read for a while. I strongly recommend checking it out if at any point you feel like you need to take a break.
My last piece of advice is to try and remember why you are there. What made you want to come to YALC in the first place? Maybe it was to get a book signed by a favourite author, to get some invaluable writing advice from professionals or to meet online friends. Whatever your reason for attending keep that goal in mind. Keeping my goal in mind makes me more determined to push through those anxious moments and when you achieve your goal take a moment to celebrate! Be proud that your anxiety did not stop you from doing what you wanted to do. Enjoy your moment, trust me – it’s a big deal!
I hope that these tips might be useful to you and help you to have an amazing weekend at YALC!
If you have anxiety and are attending YALC please don't hesitate to contact me at @JessHeartsBooks on Twitter and I'll support you in the build up to YALC in any way that I can.
Know that you're not alone and that we can do this!