Rest is Best: Prioritizing Self Care at the Festival

Woman swinging in Pyro Bar net swing. Eyes closed. Soaking up the sun. Barefoot.
Photo by Jacob Avanzato

There’s nothing quite like the excitement of a music festival.

Once you arrive and set up camp, you might sit with friends and plan out all the various things you want to do and see throughout your time there. Then, whether you stick to the plan or find yourself on another adventure, you know it’s sure to be a time worth talking about later.

With so many amazing things to do, sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the ‘must keep going’ mindset and putting self care in the back of our minds while we experience what the festival has to offer. This mindset, combined with lack of sleep, food, or basic self care, can quickly lead to burnout and end with you mentally and sometimes physically collapsing.

Running the match at both ends is easy to do with so much excitement going on. Here’s how you can make the most of your festival experience while feeling your best.

Photo by Arian Mahboubian

Self care at a music festival means many things.

It means different things to different people, and different things at different times. Let’s start with the basics: food and water.

When my friends and I first started festivaling, we would pack enough food for a week. After a few festivals, we discovered a hard truth, which was that we weren’t eating any of it! The fact of the matter is, when you are out and about, engaging in various activities, and having a great time all night long…. Food may become a second thought.

The key to making sure you eat at festivals is to be realistic about what you are bringing, how your environment might influence what you will want to eat, and whether you will actually eat it. Figure out what works for you (sometimes this takes trial and error at different festivals) and once you do, stick to that.

For example, I’ve found that packing pre-chopped fruit and berries for when food just doesn’t sound good is a great way to get in some nutrients and hydration. Granola bars for quick carbs and protein are essential items in a daypack when you’re out and about. And I love to hit Trader Joe’s before the festival to buy a few pre-made wraps and salads for a quick, nutritious, light meal at camp before kicking off the day.

Sometimes, eating sounds like the last thing we want to do. Just remember it’s essential to maintaining your energy and keeping headaches and hangovers at bay, so find what works for you to make it happen.

It’s not uncommon for a mimosa breakfast or Bloody Mary bar at brunch to make you forget about the good old H2O from the moment you wake until you’re passing out at night. Save yourself from the unbearable fight for your life that happens at 6 am when you’re looking for a water bottle, start the day with a tall glass of water (literally).

Man sleeping in camp chair in front of Water Realm banner.
Photo by: Foster Snell | @FosterTheExplorer

I like to kick it up a notch by adding in Liquid IV for extra hydration. Make sure you are consuming water throughout the day, and always have some on you to influence you even further to stay hydrated. Dancing in the heat, breathing in the dust, and if you choose to, drinking alcohol, will knock you out at 5 pm real quick—UNLESS you take care of yourself and stay hydrated.

Perhaps one of the biggest struggles at the fest will be that between letting yourself rest and the harsh FOMO you may experience if you do just that.

However, I can promise you that physically being there after being up for 24 hours is NOT the same as physically, mentally, and wholly being there after getting some sleep. Now, I’m not saying you need a full 8 hours a night (but if you manage to get that—good on you!), but listen to your body and take what you need.

Another secret from festival veterans is the good ol’ disco nap. You know what I’m talking about— that mid-day nap you take when the rest of your friends are out dancing the afternoon away. It’s a common occurrence to come back to camp at 5 pm to find your buddy crawling out of their tent after getting a quick 2 hour nap.

Group of six sitting in the grass (likely at The Nook) enjoying some shade and music.
Photo by Eric Allen

Then before you know it…

They are fully ready to head out to  the 10 pm headliner while you are downing stimulants (coffee, duh!) to drag yourself there in the outfit you’ve had on since 10 am.. All I’m saying is one of these people can make it to the after-after party with full energy reserves, while the other might end up knocked out at 5 pm the next day and missing the whole last day of the festival (if it sound like I’m speaking from experience….it’s because I am!).

Lastly, festivals are full of all kinds of mental, visual, and auditory stimulants, in every form, everywhere you look. Sometimes, it might just be time to chill, take a breath, and take some time to recenter yourself. This might mean waking up early and bringing your coffee over to the hillside to watch the sunset before the day begins.

This could also mean joining a yoga session to move and stretch after a night filled with fun and being on your feet. Or it could just mean laying down a blanket in the back of the crowd and watching the stage performers while fading in and out of a nap.

While it’s easy to be all go-go-go, it’s just as vital to invite in the chill. Rest is the best way to prioritize yourself during any festival. Prioritize your self care and watch how your experience turns from amazing to absolutely everything you hoped it would be…and more!

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