With “Leeds and Reading Festival 2023” fast approaching, health experts have advised festival goers to look after their mental health over the long weekend.
While attending festivals can be a fun way to escape the stresses of everyday life, some of the behaviours associated with attending can risk dangerous psychological effects long after you’ve packed up your tent and travelled home from the campsite.
Ahead of the bank holiday weekend, Kate Bithell, a mental health nurse at private rehab clinic Delamere, discusses how festival attendees can protect their mental health this weekend to avoid feeling physically and/or mentally fatigued.
Stay away from mixing drugs and alcohol
First and foremost, if you plan to attend a festival this year and want to look after your mental health, you should avoid mixing drugs and alcohol.
Festivals offer an environment where drugs and alcohol are more readily available and accepted as the social “norm”, and it is not uncommon for people to mix the two together. Worryingly, music festivals are often the first time young individuals experiment with drugs for the first time, and pressure from others may lead them to take greater doses than they intended due to naivety around the potency and strengths of different substances.
While taking any illegal substance is highly dangerous, when mixed with alcohol, the risks can become significantly higher regarding the potential impact on one’s mental and physical health.
For example, when using MDMA alone, an individual may experience hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia. However, when mixed with a depressant like alcohol, the symptoms can be even more severe. Users are also more prone to suffer from a more extended “comedown” experience as the drugs in their system wear off if they have also been consuming alcohol.
Get as much sleep as possible
While the thought of a decent night’s sleep while attending a festival seems almost impossible to many, it is important to prioritise sleep wherever possible during the weekend.
Severe sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health long term. This is because when our bodies aren’t given sufficient time to rest, the levels of stress hormones in our bodies are raised, which can contribute to increased feelings of anxiety and depression.
Many seasoned festival goers who know a full night of sleep is unlikely will aim to try and rest or nap throughout the day when camping areas are quieter to keep their energy levels up. Ear plugs, a good quality tent, and a sleeping bag are worth packing to ensure maximum comfort.
Remember to eat
There is often so much going on at festivals that it can sometimes feel overwhelming, and this may result in many forgetting to eat at regular stages throughout the day or skipping meals altogether.
While some may think that this kind of eating behaviour is relatively harmless for short periods of time – such as over the course of a long weekend, it can have a big impact on your mental health.
Food gives us energy, so when we don’t eat, it can cause blood sugar levels to drop, leading to mood swings, irritability, and low energy. Considering that previous studies have suggested the average festival attendee will walk around 15 miles over the course of a weekend, energy is vital.
For those planning to drink, regular meals and snacks will also help to soak up the alcohol consumed. Drinking on an empty stomach means you feel the effects quicker and more strongly, which may increase feelings of paranoia, anxiety, and depression.
Know your limits
Though this might seem obvious, it is important that to protect your mental health at festivals, you know where your limits are and when you should stop. While it can be easy to give into peer pressure to drink a little more than you intended, trying to keep up with others could be extremely dangerous, especially in an environment like a festival where you are more vulnerable.
Depending on your size and height, alcohol can affect people differently, so if you try to match how much others are drinking, you may experience more severe psychological and physical effects than they do.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have the “best” time
Festivals like Glastonbury can often feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. However, putting too much pressure on yourself to have the “best” time possible can leave you worried, upset or even depressed if it doesn’t go according to plan or live up to your unrealistic expectations.
At festivals, there are a lot of factors outside of your control, such as the weather that may not make it the experience you wanted it to be or a band or artist you were looking forward to watching cancelling their performance at the last minute.
Therefore before going, try not to set your expectations too high, and you’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself and walk away having had a great time.