Mental Health

How to Manage Anxiety on Public Transportation

Do you struggle with taking public transportation? Does your chest tighten every time you get on a train or a bus? It’s more common than you think. If you’re someone who feels panicked or anxious at the thought of having to use public transport, here is some helpful information for you to know.

Do I have anxiety about public transportation?

Having a social anxiety disorder could cause feelings of stress during public situations or in crowded places. If you’re someone who lives with an anxiety-related phobia, such as agoraphobia, you may feel resistant to leaving your home or be overwhelmed in open and enclosed spaces, crowds, and the many different forms of public transportation.

Symptoms of anxiety

When faced with a stressful situation, take note if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Hyperventilating or trouble breathing
  • Sweaty palms
  • Feeling nauseous

These kinds of anxiety symptoms, particularly when one is faced to use a bus, train, or another kind of communal transport method, can cause intense fear and can result in those affected avoiding new places, unfamiliar locations, and social situations.

Coping skills to help manage public transportation anxiety

If you have anxiety about public transport, you aren’t alone. Realizing your fear of public transportation is the first step towards finding a way to combat the ongoing emotions you experience. Once you understand the cause of these intense feelings, you can find ways to help manage them during stressful situations.

You’ll want to take some time to find coping techniques that work for you. Don’t feel discouraged if it initially doesn’t work how you expect it to. Here are a few coping techniques you can consider to help you get around the city with anxiety:

  • Stay hydrated: Feeling stressed can cause dehydration. This can lead to fatigue, headaches, and nausea. Before you start your commute back home, consider drinking more water. Water can help you manage your anxiety and leave you feeling more grounded than before.
  • Practice breathing exercises: Breathing is key to remaining calm and alleviating your unwanted feelings of stress. Breathing exercises are a great tool that will allow you to calm your nerves and keep your mind under control. To get started:
    • Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose.
    • Count to four seconds and hold your breath for an extra 2 seconds.
    • Exhale slowly for 4 seconds.
    • Repeat this cycle 10 times or until you feel relaxed and at ease. If you feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to focus on your breathing while you’re out and about in the city. This can help reduce your stress levels and provide mental clarity.
  • Bring a friend: When faced with public situations that trigger anxiety and panic attacks, it can be easier to take on these challenges when accompanied by a friend or family member. With the support, you can feel more secure and relaxed in public and learn how to combat your triggers with someone you know and trust.
  • Practice positive visualization: Everyone’s mind is different. For some, visualizing a positive outcome can be a beneficial way to overcome the anxious feelings associated with public transport. Before leaving for work or heading home from the store, consider where you’re going. For example, if you’re traveling back home tell yourself “I will be home soon” and visualize the positive outcome that comes from being back in your home, like the comfort that comes from winding down from the stress of commuting and being able to relax for the rest of the day.
  • Try the 54321 Method: The 54321 method is designed to help you focus and help you practice mindfulness. It’s a coping technique that helps individuals deal with any type of anxiety disorder. If you’re feeling overwhelmed in a public situation, try to focus and do the following to help ground yourself:
    • Name 5 things you can see
    • Listen for 4 sounds you can hear
    • Identify 3 things you can feel
    • Find 2 things you can smell
    • Think about 1 thing you can taste

Trying any one, or all, of these techniques can help to disrupt your anxious feelings and provide you with the mental balance you need to get from point A to point B.

Finding support for public transportation anxiety

As tempting as it may sound, try your best not to avoid public transportation especially if it’s an accessible and convenient method of commuting to work or school. These feelings of stress and discomfort will continue to fester and it will become increasingly challenging for you to overcome the anxiety of getting around to the places you want, or need, to get to.

Instead, take some time to consider what part of public transportation is really causing you to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Is it the crowds of people? The movement of the train? Is it because you have an anxious temperament, or is it other outside environmental stressors?

Different parts of your brain control your anxious or fearful responses. If you can get to the underlying causes of your anxiety, you may be able to find even more coping skills to utilize. Talking to a therapist about your anxiety can help you understand and recognize some of these underlying causes. And that kind of support can help you start feeling more confident about getting from point A to point B no matter what form of transportation you use to get there.

Clarity Clinic

At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services. To learn more about how we can support your mental health, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.

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