Did you know that anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue among Americans 18 and older? Nearly 20% of the U.S. population suffers from anxiety every year—that’s approximately 40 million people! There are a lot of different triggers that produce anxiety symptoms in different people. Although you may not hear it about it as much, public transportation is a common source of anxiety for many individuals. The lack of control, being surrounded by strangers, navigating unfamiliar routes and schedules, and being in a confined space can all contribute to a fear of public transit.
If public transportation is your best (or only) option for travel though, your anxiety doesn’t have to hold you back. By taking the steps below, you can work your way toward overcoming your fears and enjoying the many benefits that public transportation has to offer!
Prepare yourself before you ride.
When taking the bus, train, or metro, it can feel like there are many unknown aspects to the process, and the fear of the unknown is often at the root of anxiety. By familiarizing yourself with the situation you’re walking into beforehand, you can feel more in control and less anxious about what’s to come. Ahead of your trip (even if it’s just a quick commute), look up the details you’ll need to know for your ride, such as the cost of your ticket, departure times, any transfers, where to buy tickets, etc.
Ease your way into using public transit.
If the idea of using public transportation makes you anxious, it’s probably not a good idea to hop on to the main bus line at peak commute time for your first venture out. Build up your comfort levels and confidence slowly by starting with a practice route and time that isn’t as busy. Having fewer people around will help reduce your anxiety as you get used to the environment and overall process of riding.
Try writing down your fears beforehand.
Writing down your anxieties can be an effective way to help you let go of your fears and examine how realistic they are. Ask yourself questions about your anxieties and write down the answers. For example, what are you afraid of? How likely is it to actually happen? If, worst case scenario, it did happen, what could you do to handle it? Writing down negative thoughts gives you the opportunity to expel them from your mind and recognize when they aren’t rational.
Practice mindfulness techniques.
Mindfulness techniques like deep breathing, meditation, focused observation, and others can be very effective in calming your nerves and quieting anxiety. Start by practicing these techniques in your everyday life. As you become more familiar with them and figure out what works for you, you can use them while riding public transportation to cope with anxiety thoughts and symptoms the situation may trigger. Try bringing an exercise workbook with you on your commute or downloading a guided breathing or meditation app to help you. Utilizing these practices on public transportation can help you to disassociate your anxiety from that environment and work toward overcoming it altogether.
Or try distraction.
If you don’t think you’ll be able to get in the right headspace to practice mindfulness on the bus, metro, or other public transit, bring something along that can distract you from your anxiety instead. Diving into a book, watching a downloaded TV show or movie, or listening to a favorite playlist can be a good way to get out of your head. By keeping your mind busy, you prevent yourself from falling into the downward spiral of anxiety thoughts.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If your anxiety feels unmanageable or pervades your everyday life, other than when you’re using public transportation, it might be time to ask for help. Working with a professional, such as a mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, can help you learn coping strategies that work for you. Even just asking a friend or family member to ride with you the first few times can help dispel some of your fears associated with public transportation.
Looking for top-of-the-line buses to add to your public transportation fleet? Northwest Bus Sales can help! Our new and used buses will keep your passengers safe and are available with a variety of features to help make their ride more comfortable, so even riders with anxiety can feel assured when choosing your organization.
Browse our inventory online and contact our team today to set up a visit to our bus yard!