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Anxiety This forum is for seeking advice on anxiety and stress related issues.

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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
sincerly,me
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Fear of Public Transportation - May 30th 2017, 05:10 AM

Hello, so very soon I will have to start taking the city bus to school and I am freaking out. I have taken the city bus once before and hated it. It takes me about 20 minutes to get to the bus stop and the whole walk there I am just so paranoid I constantly feel like the cars passing by me the people inside are staring at me and I just avoid looking at anything other than the sidewalk i'm walking on. When I do get on the bus I worry about being in someones way or having to ask to sit besides someone or having to stand on a crowded bus and falling over or accidentally bumping into someone. I Just hate the fear of getting on and having to worry about. If anyone has anyone advice on how I can calm down when I do get on the bus and the walk there it would be greatly appreciated.
   
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Re: Fear of Public Transportation - May 30th 2017, 08:28 AM

Hello and thank you for writing.

In my experience what works for this kind of paranoia is Mindfulness Meditation.

The idea is we need to unwire the anxiety out of the brain. The brain can slowly be changed.

Basically that's how learning takes place. We learn things. We also learn emotions. We learn the unknown is scary. We learn people are scary. We learn crowded places are scary. We lose confidence that we will be able to deal with ordinary situations that come up.

We can also unlearn these things.

Our mind/body has 2 states: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) state, known as the "Fight or Flight" state, and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) state, known as the "Rest, Digest, Restore" state. If we are highly anxious all the time, stressed, nervous, we are in the SNS state constantly, we end up damaging our brain, we end up paranoid, afraid of crowds, afraid to ride the bus, afraid to socialize, because our body is always in the "Run away from the tiger" state.

So we need to practice putting our body in the PNS state, the Rest state.

That's what Mindfulness Meditation is all about. Practicing the art of focusing our mind on the present moment. Doing this has the side effect of putting our body in the PNS state. Just return your focus to the present moment, stop that endless thought of whatever story is going on in your mind, and just observe the present moment. Notice what you feel. Notice what you see. Notice what you hear. Notice. And when your mind begins to wander, let go of that thought and return your focus to the present moment.

And when your mind begins to wander, let go of that thought and return your focus to the present moment.

Keep repeating that.

You can start by trying this for 30 seconds.

Then increase to one minute.

There's an app called "Headspace" you can try. Watch the short animated videos which begin sessions 3, 5, 7, and 9. The app gives 10 minute guided meditations.

We are basically using our mind to rewire our brain. The result is in about 2 months you should start to notice a difference. (I know 2 months may be not soon enough for you. Well, I'm not sure, you could try an intensive doing this many times a day, just for a minute, but many times a day, each day, and you might start to notice a difference in a few weeks.)

This is also a good thing to try when you are in a stressful situation, such as on a crowded bus. Return your focus to the present moment, let go of the thoughts in your head, and just focus on the present moment, observe the present moment, and just observe. If you feel yourself getting anxious, don't try to push away that anxious feeling, instead, just observe that you are feeling anxious, and notice it. Scan your body from head to toe, and see if you can identify where in your body you feel the anxiety. What does it feel like to be anxious? Where do you feel it? What is it like? Just observe and note the feeling. This approach can help reduce the power the feeling has. You may notice the feeling doesn't have a location in your body, or the feeling does have a location, and a physical feeling, but the physical feeling isn't as intense as you thought, it's still unpleasant, but maybe it's not completely intolerable.

Still it would be nice if you have a place you can go to after the bus ride to decompress for a short time, a quiet place you can sit quietly and meditate for 10 minutes, before continuing your day. Maybe the school can provide you with this, if they understand your need for it.

Alternatives to meditation are Yoga, Tai-Chi, or Qi-gong. These are meditative motion exercises. Again it's the moving the body and focusing your mind. You can scan your body, observe what you are feeling. A guided meditation can help. There are numerous guided meditations available. Brain scans of people who do meditation, before they begin, and a few months after they have been doing it, show remarkable differences. It really does work and improve health and decrease anxiety in a real way.

Best wishes!
   
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Re: Fear of Public Transportation - May 30th 2017, 04:09 PM

I get you with the fear of using public transport! It can be hard when you are walking to the bus stop and worried about cars and passing traffic staring at you, but the important thing to remember with thoughts like these are that they are just thoughts and don't reflect reality (people are often absorbed in their own thoughts/don't think about pedestrians walking by/ focusing on driving rather than staring). It's totally okay to avoid looking at the road if it helps you to feel a bit more comfortable. You may want to try playing games in your mind like spotting things that begin with certain letters of the alphabet etc., so that you are focusing on what's around you rather than worrying about people staring. If you find yourself feeling physically anxious, it can help doing some deep breathing exercises on the way or even on the bus. You can take a deep breath in for 3 seconds and out for seconds, for a minute or until you feel calm. There are also many tutorials and apps to help you with these exercises as well.

Naturally buses can get busy, depending on the times of day that you catch a bus, and you may well end up having to sit next to someone or stand etc. Even if you do end up 'in the way' it's not your fault as buses can easily get crowded and it is difficult to manoeuvre when people are standing and need to get on or off the bus. If you find yourself in the situation, try not to overthink it since there's not much you can do. The same goes for falling over. It's unlikely this would happen as long as you hold onto something and try to avoid moving when the bus is moving. Otherwise if it happens, just apologise and laugh it off (sounds impossible but you'd be surprised that laughter can help to deal with anxiety!) Try challenging your worries by reminding yourself of these things.

Lastly, your confidence will grow as you use buses more and naturally you may find that your anxiety will get less, when you realise that some situations are unlikely to happen and the ones that do happen, you can deal with.


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Re: Fear of Public Transportation - May 30th 2017, 05:14 PM

Hey there,

I'm sorry you find public transport so daunting. I can totally understand how it feels. All through high school I had to take the bus to school, and I would constantly worry that it was the wrong bus, and that the people on it were staring at me. Even now, I worry that I'll be in the way and spend most of the journey planning how to get out of the way if someone needs to get past, and I feel constantly awkward. The thing is though, most people are in the way on buses and trains. There isn't much way to not be in the way!

If you can, try easing yourself into it. Public transport isn't pleasant but if you can get used to it and feel confident in the journey, you may find that it's less unsettling when it comes to having to do it regularly. If there's a friend you can meet and take the bus with sometimes, maybe try doing that. Make it a really short journey first, and know that if it gets too much, you can get off and take a break. Once you become more comfortable, you can try a slightly longer journey, and then, start going on your own. Maybe take a book or some headphones so that you don't have to worry about looking around and overthinking. Keep your mind occupied and it will make the journey go by quicker too.

Also know that the things you've described worrying about, happen to a lot of people. I have fallen onto people by mistake on the bus, and I know I've had people fall on to me! It's a bit embarrassing but it does happen when you have to stand on a busy bus. Also, if you don't want to sit next to someone, you don't have to! IF you can, find a corner and prop yourself up against a wall. I find that when I get anxious, having a surface which is solid and within reach helps to ground me. For instance, when I used to get the bus home from school there used to be so many people on it and occasionally schools would fight. This one time I was on the stairs and got caught between a rush of people and found that since then, I feared being in crowds, so I would make sure I had a pole or wall to keep me standing. When you're walking to the bus stop, walk near a wall and run your hand along it. Shake your leg when you're standing still. Remind yourself that you're ok.

There's a lot of mental work in this and it's never easy to overcome something like this, but working your way up to the real thing can help if it's done gradually and doing it with someone you trust can be helpful too. Taks distractions and know it's perfectly normal to sometimes be in the way. If ths bus is really busy, you're not the only one in the way. And, if you need to get off, there are doors which will open and close at every bus stop, so get some air if you need to.

I hope this has helped a bit. Good luck and take care.


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