How to look after your Mental Health at Christian Festivals

Festival season is rapidly approaching and for many of us this is a time of both expectation and apprehension. If you have a mental health condition or are vulnerable to low mood or anxiety, Christian festivals can be particularly challenging, but you can still have a brilliant festival season if you make a few great decisions. Here is our Mind and Soul guide to thriving at Christian Festivals:

Before you go

  1. Decide what, where and for how long…Different festivals have a different ethos, size and intensity. Try to make decisions that are both faith-filled and honest about what would work best for you. Consider what sort of accommodation is offered and whether a great festival weekend would be better that 7 nights under canvas!
  2. Deicide who you are going to go with and have some good conversations in advance about what you might need to do well over the course of the festival. If you need help with your medication regime, make sure you have explained this to your friends in advance and use the alarm on your phone to set the reminders before arriving.
  3. Make an early departure plan. Feeling trapped on site is a difficult position to be in. Put a family member ‘on call’ to collect you early if necessary or at least have the number of a taxi company that covers the area you are in. Avoid making solid pronouncements about how long you are staying, try something like, “Lets see how it goes,” instead.  If you overcommit to others you could end up feeling obligated to stay for their sakes.

On the site

  1. Get familiar with the site map, the info hut and any welfare tents or teams that might be provided. You probably won’t need them, but it is reassuring to know where they are if you do.
  2. Keep a festival bag with you containing all of your essentials: Phone, water, sunscreen, rain mac, shades, money, meds, bible, festival time-table.  Looking after your physical wellbeing on the site has a massive impact on your mental health. Getting dehydrated or failing to eat proper meals at regular intervals can make you low super quick.
  3. Sleep is a real challenge at festivals. Bring ear plugs, eye mask and a decent sleeping bag and pillow. Try to keep to your sleep routine as much as you possibly can. This may mean leaving sessions before they have ended so that you can fulfil your normal bedtime routine.
  4. Most people find that overstimulation is a massive issue at festivals. This can really impact your mental health, leading to feelings of euphoria, depression, anxiety and mania in different people. Getting some quite time at different points each day is essential. Look for the prayer tent, local walks or just bring some noise cancelling headphones!

On the spiritual side

  1. Christian festivals are an amazing time to grow in faith and encounter God but try to come expectant not expecting. If you have a list of what God ‘is’ going to do, you can often miss what he actually does. Treat the festival as part of your healing journey but not as the ‘final destination’. Mental health recovery is not an instant process even when God does something supernatural in us.
  2. Be discerning about what you hear. Not everyone who speaks on the conference stage is well informed about mental health and you may hear things that sound good but are actually unhelpful. If you are in any doubt chat it through with a leader you trust or the friends you have come with.
  3. Don’t sit under condemnation. God hasn’t brought you to a festival to condemn you but to help you to grow and flourish. If you beginning to run a negative script in your head or compare yourself or your capacity with other more ‘shiny’ Christians, chat these thoughts through with one of the leaders or at the welfare tent.

After the Festival

  1. Go gently. Festivals are as exhausting as they are exhilarating. Give yourself as much margin as you can before you get back into work or general life busyness.
  2. Let go of disappointment. If things didn’t go quite as planned, if you had to leave early or if you just didn’t have the encounter that you hoped try not to let disappointment take root. God will have met with you and he can turn all things to his purposes.
  3. Get ready for the come down. Everybody experiences a bit of ‘post festival blues’. This can seem quite frightening if you struggle with a mental health issue but try to see it as part of the experience. If things don’t lift after a few days, chat to your healthcare provider.
  4. Book for next year. Everyone needs a good Christian festival to look forward to through the dark winter months!   
Will Van Der Hart, 17/07/2019
More Articles
comments powered by Disqus