WHEN it comes to raising stress levels, travelling on the Tube during peak hour is up there with a visit to the dentist and moving house.

In fact, a 2015 study found that a whopping two thirds of Londoners said public transport was the most stressful part of living in the city, and that the Tube was the worst of the lot.

Feeling frazzled from your morning commute is one thing, but for those suffering from severe claustrophobia and anxiety, overcrowded central Tube lines during rush hour were quickly becoming a no-go zone.

So much so that earlier this month Transport for London (TfL) unveiled a new map of the London Underground designed to show which sections of the network rely on long stretches of tunnels, and help users find routes to avoid them.

Underground routes are marked out in grey, and it might come as a surprise to those that stick to zone one that half of the Tube’s 270 stations are actually above ground, with the Victoria and Waterloo and City lines the only two on the network that run below the surface from end to end.

Therapist Christopher Paul Jones says the introduction of the map, which is downloadable from the TfL website, is “a good start” towards making the Tube more accessible for everybody.

“One in 14 people have anxiety of going underground on the Tube, and if you look at a full train, that’s actually a lot of people,” he says.

Patients at his Harley Street clinic report feeling anxious about going underground, not being able to see the sky, and feeling trapped if a service stops between stations.

“A lot of people with anxiety and claustrophobia want to know they are safe, so knowing how long they’ll be underground, or that they can avoid a tunnel altogether can be useful. If [TfL] wanted to take it further they could even time how long services are likely to be between stops, and the average number of people on the Tube at different times of the day; that knowledge can help a lot.”

However, although the map shows huge swathes of open Tube lines in the outer boroughs, stations in the Square Mile are mostly subterranean, with the exception of Farringdon, Barbican, Liverpool Street and Tower Gateway.

With road traffic at a standstill during peak periods, and City planners unlikely to approve moving the District line to run directly along Cannon Street, a trip below ground is a daily necessity for many trying to move around the City.

But this doesn’t have to mean panic stations for anxiety or claustrophobia sufferers.

If you’re feeling nervous about travelling on the Tube or begin to experience an episode while underground, Chris recommends thinking about what might be causing it.

“There are very few fears that we’re born with, most are learned behaviours that we develop subconsciously… it could have been feeling trapped when you were young, or getting stuck in a lift,” he explains.

He says the first step is pinpointing the cause of the reaction, and then challenge it.

“Phobias aren’t logical, they are irrational, so ask yourself, ‘What am I believing will happen here?’ and then follow that with ‘How likely is that?’”

Logic can help lessen the impact of a fear, but so can a healthy dose of the absurd.

“Relive a significant event where you have been afraid and play with the images,” Chris suggests.

“Play some Benny Hill music in the background, imagine everybody with Mickey Mouse ears on, anything to detract from the fear.”

Some people can find self-relaxation in breathing exercises, or stimming behaviours like tapping or rubbing, and Chris also recommends timing your journeys appropriately.

For instance, if you get anxious about being trapped underground for long periods of time in an overcrowded carriage, avoid the Central line at 6pm.

“The most important thing is to be aware of your fears,” he says. “When is it at its worst, and when is it at its best?”

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