How to handle anxiety about travelling on public transport

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For many of us, the idea of travelling on public transport again is about as appealing as another pandemic. But, as the government encourages those who can’t work from home to return to their jobs, using buses, trains and tubes might be unavoidable. Face masks and social distancing are both obligatory for safety reasons, but such measures might not stop us from feeling anxious or fearful about the potential implications of return to public transport.

Here, a spokesperson from Anxiety UK shares their insights about how to manage any worries and uneasiness you might have about getting on the bus, tube or train.

Slowly ease yourself back into it

“For anyone feeling panicked or anxious about the prospect of using public transport our advice would be to take it one step at a time. Slowly ease yourself back into the usage of public transport when the time comes. Make journeys during less peak times to avoid big crowds. Stick to the government advice of using PPE such as masks and make sure when you arrive at your destination you wash your hands.”

Allow yourself time to get used to this next adjustment phase

“This has been a big shift in life for a lot of people and it’s understandable to be anxious due to these situations. Slowly building towards the return of normal life is important and can’t be rushed. Just as it was OK to be worried about coping with and in lockdown, it’s equally OK to worry about the next ‘adjustment’ phase and whatever this may bring. It’s important to remember that it will take time for you to get used to the new version of life in this next phase of the pandemic and that things like being outside again and getting used to increased noise levels and everywhere being generally busier, is understandably, going to take time.”

double decker bus makes its way over westminster bridge news photo 1589552880 - How to handle anxiety about travelling on public transport

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Find coping techniques that work for you

If you find it easier to cope with music or an audiobook to detach from your surroundings then find something you enjoy and give it a listen. If that’s not for you something physical to distract your mind such as a rubix cube or something to keep your hands and brain focused will again allow to something to focus on while using public transport. Breathing techniques can also be helpful for these periods. Find one that you can focus on and use these and mindfulness techniques to keep yourself calm if you feel your anxiety rising on public transport.”

Don’t hesitate to wait if the bus/tube/train looks too busy

“If you find yourself travelling during peak times following the governments advice is the most important thing you can do. Wearing a face mask can help to reduce the spread of the infection. If possible carry some hand sanitiser and use it before getting on public transport and again when getting off. Where possible stick to social distancing rules, if the bus/train/tram looks too busy and you’re feeling worried take 10 minutes if possible and wait for the next one.”

If you find yourself having a panic attack, follow these steps:

“Start by getting off of the transport if possible, try and find a seat or a bench and take five minutes to get some air, away from others if possible. Take deep breaths and use some breathing techniques to regulate your breathing. Grounding techniques such as the 54321 method can also help, repeating as many times as needed. The important thing is to not rush yourself to get through this. Continue regulating your breathing until you feel calmer.

Anxiety UK supports individuals living with or affected by anxiety, stress and anxiety based depression, their caregivers/family and friends through the provision of a wide range of services and information. For more information on any of Anxiety UK’s services visit: Anxietyuk.org.uk or contact the national information line on 03444 775 774.

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