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How to Cope With a Panic Attack At Walt Disney World

6. Ride it out

Walt Disney World Railroad Train

Image: Disney

The sentence that changed my perspective on anxiety was, “Bad things feel bad, but that’s okay.” Often anxiety attacks strike because we take a weight on our shoulders that we can’t bear. We are too hard on ourselves, and we overestimate that people are judging us when they are just as stressed and distracted as we are. The truth is that in a place as busy as Walt Disney World, human beings are going to have awkward encounters, families might get testy, and stress levels might rise.

And that’s totally okay.

You are not going to be able to please everyone. Human bumper car situations are going to happen. It’s going to be awkward, and it is perfectly normal that certain elements of a Walt Disney World vacation may produce anxiety. Bad things feel bad, but it’s okay. If you have a bad encounter with a cranky guest, move on and leave them to their stress—it’s their problem, not yours. Be polite for your part, but don’t be hard on yourself if you bump someone’s shoulder or almost trip on a kid. It’s totally normal. There can be something very soothing about accepting the crowds, accepting our own limitations, and learning how to persevere through anxiety. If you can ride out the attack following proper psychological guidance, do it!

However, there are times when, no matter who you are, it’s time to make a retreat.

7. Plan a strategic retreat

People sitting on lawn outside Boardwalk Inn

Image: Disney

There is zero shame in making a strategic retreat. There are times when Walt Disney World is such a legitimately batty place that the stress you feel has nothing to do with uncommon anxiety—you’re simply feeling a completely logical response to overwhelming stimuli and pressure. At these times, particularly halfway through the day when parks are most crowded, plan a strategic retreat out of the parks.

This is where the benefits of staying in a Disney-owned resort kick in. There is something very comforting in knowing that a quiet, safe, clean room is just a boat or bus ride away, or a short walk down the Boardwalk. One of the most common tips I give Walt Disney World visitors is to take a mid-day retreat away from the parks when crowds get craziest then return in the evening. It’s also a great time to give kids a nap.

If you aren’t staying on property, there are still tons of places throughout Walt Disney World where you can take a break and enjoy some quiet time. The beaches and walkways between the Magic Kingdom resorts include lots of quiet places. Near Epcot, the balcony of the Boardwalk Resort has benches and beach chairs that are almost never occupied. Animal Kingdom Lodge has tons of places to sit throughout and around its lobby, as well as plenty of peaceful paths to watch the animals.

8. Take your support team with you

Stormtroopers outside Star Wars Launch Bay

Image: Disney

While the apps above are great, one of the best steps you can take if you struggle with panic attacks is to see a qualified mental health professional before your trip. Look for someone with a good track record who specializes in the area you are struggling with. Some universities even offer low cost counseling in their psychology departments. A qualified professional can provide advice on further techniques you can use on your trip, even providing scripts that your loved ones can use to help gently walk you through an attack. If you need a helping hand during a panic attack, you can also call MentalHelp.net ‘s Panic Disorder Information Hotline at 1-800-64-PANIC (72642). Either way, go in prepared, and know that anxiety doesn’t have to control your Walt Disney World vacation. There is hope, and there is help.

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