October 18, 2017 I’M FREAKING OUT ABOUT EVERYTHING! Dear Nikki, I struggle with anxiety and get so nervous about the littlest things! For example, whenever I see bad news on TV or hear about severe weather reports, I get so uneasy that I start to feel queasy. I’ve tried talking to my mom about this, but is there anything else I can do? Freaked Out About Freaking Out Hi Freaked Out About Freaking Out, First of all, BIG HUGS! (If you like hugs. If not, no worries. High five for putting yourself out there!) There’s A LOT of stuff going on in the world, and some of it can be pretty scary. But, it’s super important for you not to freak out over it. Life is WAY too short for that! I think it’s HUGE that you realize what anxiety is. A lot of people struggle with these stressful, overwhelming feelings but can’t name them, and that’s even worse. Naming it is an important step! Second, the struggle is real, so you shouldn’t have to tackle anxiety on your own. I’m glad you’re talking to your mom about it. You have other options too, like a school counselor or therapist. Whatever you do, don’t keep it to yourself, because pint-up anxiety is what causes the queasiness! Here are a few other things I know that might help when you feel anxiety creeping up: BREATHING: I mean, duh, I hope you’re breathing! But I’m talking about slow, deep breaths. Try this—find somewhere comfortable to sit or lie down. Think of two things you really, really love. It could be chocolate, books, your cat or your dog. Personally, I’d choose Chloe and Zoey since they’re by BFFs! Now set a timer for four minutes, and for the whole four minutes, take long, slow breaths and when you breathe in and out, say whatever those things are to yourself. For instance, my inward breath would be “Chlooooeeeee,” and my outward breath would be, “Zoooooeeeeey.” Focus on the breathing and saying the name of the things in your head as you breathe. By the time four minutes are up, you won’t feel as anxious! “WHAT IF” COMPARED TO “WHAT IS:” Sometimes when you’re feeling anxious, your mom might try to use logic on you, like, “Of course the world isn’t going to end tonight, honey. There’s absolutely no good reason to believe that.” Or whatever. But that doesn’t usually help, right? One thing you can do, though, is try to move yourself away from thinking about What if…? Instead, try to get your brain to focus on What is…? What is means thinking about the true facts around you at that moment. So instead of thinking, “What if a major natural disaster strikes while I’m sleeping?”, go through a list of things that are really happening at the moment. For example, “It’s raining. I’m wearing my Fifth Harmony t-shirt. My dog just jumped into my lap.” Focus on sensory details—what you see, hear, taste, touch, or smell. Focusing on what’s real can help your brain stop freaking out about what’s not real. FIDGET SPINNERS: I’m sure a bunch of your friends have fidget spinners and maybe you do too! But did you know they can help you handle anxiety? (Fidget cubes can also work, or really anything that gives your fingers something to do.) It’s really the same idea as when people bite their fingernails as a “nervous habit.” But this way, you don’t harm your body! SLEEP, EXERCISE & EATING HEALTHY: When you’re overtired and sluggish, anxiety gets worse. In order to beat anxiety, try to exercise regularly and get plenty of sleep. Eat healthy food, too! The sugar and caffeine in junk food can cause anxiety. So, the next time you’re craving a Twix bar, try reaching for some crackers with peanut butter or a juicy, sweet apple instead! I hope some of those things help! But most of all, I hope you realize you don’t have to tackle your anxiety alone. Who else struggles with anxiety, and how do you handle it?