6 ways to deal with crowd anxiety during the holidays

By Haley Hernandez - Health Reporter

HOUSTON - Crowds are among the top 10 fears many people have, and since the holidays bring crowds to the roads, stores and celebrations, the chief of psychiatry at Ben Taub and Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Asim Shah, gave six tips to help deal with anxious feelings.

Locate exits when you arrive

“If the crowd or social gathering is beginning to bother you, before you enter or as soon as you enter, you can mark down the exits, so that if it's getting too bothersome, you need to know where to get out from. You also need to know in those situations that you are not alone,” Shah said.

Bring a friend

“A lot of times people, when they take friends with them, when they have a group of people who are enjoying (a gathering), they get less anxious. When they are alone, they get more anxious,” Shah said.

Focus on the reason you're there

For example, sporting events can be an easy way to focus on something other than the anxiety.
“If you focus on the game as opposed to the crowd, that may relax you. So, focus on the game itself and person who you're comfortable with, as opposed to the surroundings,” Shah said.

Start small

Shah warned that if you classify your anxiety as severe, start small.
“I would like them to do these things systemically, as opposed to just jump onto this mega event,” he said. “Doing those things systemically, would make more sense,” Shah said.

He said this is not a time to "face your fears," because even if you want to leave, the environment may not lend itself to an easy and quick departure.

Wait for crowds to disperse

Traffic makes it hard to leave quickly, but at some events everyone is leaving at once: like sporting events, concerts or the rodeo.

Shah said if you can, try to wait until the crowds are gone. Even though it means staying in the environment longer, it might be easier to have a clear path out at the end.

Know what relaxes you

Shah said soft music-- not rock music-- tends to help soothe a lot of people.
For others, reading a book works.

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