7 Ways to Survive the London Underground if you have Claustrophobia

Friday, 14 November 2014

Oh don't we all just love the London Underground system? What with the constant run of the mill signal failures for the idiot who threw their empty crisp packet onto the track. The delays caused by these signal failures and the shouting at from your boss because of your lateness! And of course there's the people. *groan*. Tell me this, why must so many people choose to travel on the same train all at the same time, surely they have another means of transportation into the city. And you! Yes you, trying to lug your enormous suitcase onto an already sardine packed carriage, can't you already see it's full? There is no more room at the inn I'm afraid.

Now I know I may sound cynical, and I'm sorry. I actually love the London Underground, in all it's uniqueness and glory. But as a person who suffers from claustrophobia and is prone to anxiety attacks, taking the tube at any time (especially peak hours) is absolute, complete, utter and dyer agony! I'm not going to lie, sometimes I have made up an excuse
not to go somewhere just so I could avoid taking the tube at a busy time! (apologies to those of you who I lied to about my cat running away *shame face*) It's unhealthy and not beneficial to your career or education if you just miss days just because the you don't particularly like the idea of being squished into a sardine can. It's ok I've come up with a couple of tips which have helped me to survive the dreaded journey in one piece with my heart still in my chest where it belongs! Have a look:
I know it's easier said than done, but distracting yourself from the stress and uneasy feeling that you are experiencing, is one of the best ways to help you get through the journey. Now distracting yourself can be anything from playing a game on your phone to counting the squares on the seats. My favourite distraction tool is scrolling through my Twitter/Facebook/Instagram feed. But what if I'm underground? you ask. Well I make sure that I preload as much content as I can manage and then once underground have the leisure of scrolling through all of last night's updates without the worry of loss of connection or the buffer of pages.
This is the first step to take when trying to survive the London Underground. These two carriages of any train are usually the least congested and I make it my life's mission to get to that first or last carriage. If I trip and fall on the way, so be it! As long as I get that carriage. During peak hour this is ridiculously important. It is not fun being squished up against a random man who you don't know or thrusted under the smelly armpit of some gigantic stranger. It's horrid and a thought I do not want to think about.

 Now this one I don't really do often, because I tend to have a wondering eye. I find it very hard to keep my eyes fixated on one place. Any slight sound or movement and my head is flying around to detect the position of the stimulus. My friends say it's my cat's super sensitive reactions rubbing off on me, I just say it's me just being an overly aware and slightly nosy person. Fixating on what's going on outside the window, a point on the train floor or at your hands, is a great way to keep you distracted from looking up into passengers faces or at the crowded carriage.

One tip I have been doing an awful lot of recently is making mental lists/notes. I'm in my third year of university which means dissertation, dissertation, dissertation and holding down a job as a part time therapist! It isn't easy and the train is probably the only place where I am able to sit down and really think about what I'm actually doing in my life. So I use this time to create to-do lists for the day or the week, plan therapy sessions, read up on a university topic or even write a blog post or two. Its a great way to pass the time, be productive and keep your mind off the horrible, stuffy environment.

Get to know the underground. There's always an underground map fitted somewhere around the train, or you can use the app on your phone. Look at it, learn it, study it! It's a great distraction tool and if you're a tourist or new to the underground you can get to grips with the crazy, never ending maze that it is. 

Countdown the amount of stations you have left until you reach you destination. You'll be surprised at how much faster this makes the time go. I do it everyday on my morning commute. From the moment I go underground at Finchley Road to my Kings Cross destination. If I get to Baker Street I'll mentally say 'ok just three more stops until Kings Cross, then at Great Portland Street it's two more stops and so on and so on. Subconsciously in our minds the act of counting down helps us to think that we are making progress and that we will reach our destination quicker, even if it 20 more stops until we get to Heathrow. (it'll only feel like 10!)

Deep breaths and thoughts of the nice, fat bacon butty you're going to get from the cafĂ© across the station when you emerge will get you through. Keeping calm in an element of panic is not always easy. But it is one of the best ways to minimise the feelings of anxiety! Take deep breaths, have a sip of water, loosen your shoulders. These are all ways to keep calm! One trick which I have learnt over the years is to transport you mind to a safe and happy place. My place is a paradise island with crystal blue waters, white sands and palm trees. Whenever I feel anxious or nervous I usually tend to imagine this place in my mind and I immediately feel calm and forget whatever it was that I was worrying about.
The London Underground can be a scary and anxiety filled place for those of you with claustrophobia, agoraphobia or anxiety issues, but even more so for those of you who suffer from travel sickness or discomfort in public places. A quick trial of these tips and I promise you'll keep your worries at bay and arrive at your destination in one peace!

Do you have any special ways in which you deal with a journey on the tube? Comment and let me know! Safe travels everyone!

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