"At the time I believed I was alone with my thoughts, but what I know now is that there are many other people with anxiety and claustrophobia fears that feel the same, daily."
I used to be terrified of getting on public transport, especially the tube. Heart palpitations, feeling uneasy and sick meant going anywhere fast was a daunting thought and experience.
I was at Uni, a 45 min journey away, so using the tube was a must. My brain would go into overdrive and tell me the train would be hijacked, there would be a bomb or fire, the train would collide with another train, and the list goes on. When the train paused in a tunnel, it felt like I was there for an eternity. I would fear that we would get stuck in the tunnel, not make it to the next station and then have to be evacuated and walk the tracks in the dark to the next station. My brain was a playground of negativity.
I never had a bad experience on the tube in my childhood, so where was this irrational fear coming from? There was no association there. I realised it was all about my loss of personal control.
At the time I believed I was alone with my thoughts, but what I know now is that there are many other people with anxiety and claustrophobia fears that feel the same, daily.
What I also realise is that stressful life experiences can exacerbate anxiety and at the time I was going through a pretty rough period in my life, which inevitably leads to more stress and a rise of irrational thoughts.
I recall not wanting to mention what was happening to me, out of fear that others would call me 'crazy' - this inevitably lead to even more stress. Feeling like a complete weirdo for having these thoughts, not doing my research, and not knowing I was not alone - all heightened my experience. The thoughts have since subsided, although I still have the odd anxious thought drop in now again when I'm travelling on the tube. I remain calm, breathe deeply and remind myself that I will be okay.
So what can help?
Try and dig deep and understand where the irrational fear is coming from? Did you have a negative incident in childhood, is there any association from your past?
Practising meditation beforehand and deep breathing can help to relieve anxiety - and reduce stress during tube journeys.
Plan your journey - as to avoid rush hour, crowds, noise, heat etc. Stay hydrated - remember to take a bottle of cold water on tube journeys.
Distract your mind. When you begin to feel anxious, remind yourself that you are thinking irrationally and catastrophising what's going on. Read a book, listen to your favourite podcast, or think about a positive experience like going outdoors or a beach walk.
If the issue persists, do not feel ashamed to speak to your doctor, who will be able to offer support on ways to alleviate the anxious thoughts.