10+ Things You Can Do to Stop the Panic

What can you do when worry sets in? How can you stop the panic? Check out these ways to calm the chaos in your mind when you start to worry and panic.

People with ADHD are often overly sensitive or have true anxiety and panic attacks. What can we do to stop the panic?

We all can get stuck in a rut. Catastrophizing is common. When we catastrophize, it’s as if the sky is falling and we lose the ability to cope.

We panic.

Learning to cope when life throws problems and stressors in our way builds our resilience. Being resilient helps us to be successful.

Let’s look at ways to stop the negative thinking of panic.

1. Lean on a friend or family member.

Most of us recognize how good we feel when we help someone else out, yet we hesitate to ask for help. Why is that? When we’re in need, there are many people who can help.

Lean On Me lyrics share a fantastic message. #friends @adhdkcteen

It’s preferable if you can talk to someone who is at least in their mid-20s. Their maturity can offer many benefits. If you’re not sure who you can talk to, think of the many adults in your life who would be happy to listen. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, coaches, teachers, neighbors… there are many people who care about you.

If you choose to talk to a peer, choose wisely. Some people can’t take the pressure of hearing negativity. Others will shut you out. And of course many kids overshare other people’s business, so don’t talk about things that are private with peers.

2. Mindfulness

Practice mindfulness to help with anxiety, focus, and overall healthy well being. @adhdkcteen

Don’t roll your eyes and presume mindfulness won’t help.

Mindfulness trains your brain to be aware of your body and environment without judgement.

Yes, it takes time to learn how to be mindful, but a lot of research shows that mindfulness can help with anxiety, chronic pain, stress, focus, and more.

Mindfulness is often referred to as a practice for a reason. You should practice it often, but there are no right or wrong ways to do it.

If you can’t sit still, don’t. It’s okay to get up and walk while being mindful.

When your brain keeps thinking of things, don’t get upset. Just redirect.

Start simple with breathing. You breathe every day, so you can do this step. Take deep belly breaths. Nice and slow. Focus on the breathing.

For more tips on being mindful with ADHD, see

3. Journal

Journaling can get thoughts out of your head so you can relax. Try it when you're angry, anxious, or can't sleep. It just might work. @adhdkcteen

Sometimes it helps to get your thoughts written. Even if you don’t like to write school papers, journaling can help.

Grab a pen and paper or start typing.

It doesn’t need to be grammatically correct or interesting to anyone else. You can just make word jumbles or lists. If you like poetry, make it into a poem.

Just get your thoughts written down.

There’s a very cathartic benefit towards journaling.

You can even take it a step further and write down things you’re thankful for each day. Gratitude helps our overall mindset, and focusing on gratitude can lift our mood.

4. Color and doodle

Doodling and coloring are very relaxing and can be done nearly anywhere when you need to relax. @adhdkcteen

There’s something really soothing about coloring or just doodling.

You can even use free printables like these online if you want some coloring sheets.

And this is something that can be done nearly anywhere.

5. Sing or listen to your favorite tune

Singing or listening to music are ways to help calm down when anxious or angry. @adhdkcteen

What better way to get into a good mood? Listen to a favorite song. Sing along!

Research has shown that listening to music can reduce anxiety, blood pressure and pain. It can also help sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.

Pick your favorite feel good songs and make a playlist that you can pull up when needed.

6. Exercise

Exercise should be fun. Find things you love to do and do them. Every day. @adhdkcteen

We’ve all heard that exercise helps our bodies, but many people minimize the value it has for our mental health.

Regular exercise helps our mindset in general, but if you have the opportunity to work out when you’re upset, it can help lift your mood.

Combine numbers 5 and 6 and workout to some great tunes!

7. Change the scene

If you need to change your mood or attitude, change the scene. Get up and walk around. It helps! @adhdkcteen

If you’re getting worked up, it can help to get up and walk around.

Especially if you are worried you will say or do something you’ll regret, leave the situation if you can.

If you can go outside, even better. Fresh air can be mood-lifting.

8. Think about what has gone right.

Even the very worst days have something that went right. Take time every day to think about the positives. What are you grateful for? What went right? @adhdkcteen

We tend to ruminate about what’s wrong. Negative thoughts are all we can think about. We need to learn to stop this rumination.

When you recognize that you’re ruminating, accept that you’re having whatever thoughts you’re having. Recognize that the thoughts might not be accurate and allow the thoughts to pass rather than trying to block them out. Trying to block out negative thoughts will just cause increased intensity of the thoughts you’re trying not to have. You can replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts: what is going right? What is the best possible outcome? How can you turn the situation around?

If this is hard, start to make it a practice to write down at least one thing at the end of each day that went well. Your hard studying paid off. You met a new friend. You had a good hair day. Whatever it is, keeping a list gives you something to reflect upon when you’re really down. Doing this daily also helps your brain practice finding the good in things. Like anything, practice makes things easier. It is really hard to find good things to think about when you’re in a bad place, but it gets easier when you’ve practiced when you’re not in a foul mood.

9. Be silly

Being funny can help raise the mood, but be sure you aren't hurting or insulting anyone in order to make a joke. @adhdkcteen

You have to use this one sparingly.

Obviously in the middle of class you can’t start being silly, but if you’re able to get to a place that you can do a silly dance or anything silly to unwind: do it. Acting the part can help relax you and set the mood.

Be careful to not offend anyone or be hurtful in your humor and silliness.

10. Find perspective

Run through questions that help put your worries into perspective.

  1. What are you really worried about?
  2. How likely is it that your worry will come true? Use evidence to support your answer.
  3. If your worry comes true, what is the worst thing that will happen?
  4. If your worry does come true, what’s the most likely thing that will happen?
  5. If your worry does come true, what are the chances that things will be okay
    1. In one week?
    2. In one month?
    3. In one year?

Try a Thought Record to help get your thoughts in order. Here’s a completed example and one you can use for yourself.

Thought Record from https://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/docs/ThoughtRecordSheet.pdf @adhdkcteen

11. Sensory stuff

There are many sensory items that have been shown to help with anxiety and focus. Find what works for you. @adhdkcteen

Sensory items can help calm our minds. Think of sounds, smells, textures, and visually relaxing things.

  • Squishy play doh or silly putty
  • Textured cloth
  • White noise machines
  • Chewable jewelry – if you don’t know what this is, just search “chewelry”
  • Weighted blanket
  • Noise reducing headphones
  • Rock or sway
  • Run your fingers through a bin of sand, dry rice, or dry beans
  • Aromatherapy – Use candles, diffusers, or scented objects. Jasmine, vanilla and other scents might relax you.
  • Glitter jar – make your own!

Need more?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is very effective for anxiety management. Ask your physician to help find a good therapist for you.

If you’re not willing or able to work with a therapist, there are some interesting options to try online. These are not meant to replace professional help, but they help to remove the most common roadblocks to working with a therapist: cost, time, and not wanting to talk to a real person. Learning online might help you see what can be done with therapy and open your mind to finding a therapist.

  • Woebot is a free app that uses artificial intelligence to teach CBT. It can help you think through situations and learn about yourself with intelligent mood tracking.
  • MindShift™ CBT uses scientifically proven strategies based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help you learn to relax and be mindful, develop more effective ways of thinking, and use active steps to take charge of your anxiety.
  • What’s Up? is a free app currently only available for iOS users using some of the best CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) methods to help you cope with Depression, Anxiety, Anger, Stress and more!

JOMO: Joy of Missing Out

As we hear holiday songs of joy and cheer, it’s a great time to talk about the Joy of Missing Out: JOMO. This winter break don’t waste your time looking at all the great photos of what your friends are doing. Fear of missing out, FOMO, leads to depression and feelings of insecurity. Find your own fun. Learn to appreciate the joy of missing out.

FOMO is everywhere

We’re able to see what our friends are up to at all hours of the day and night. People tend to post pics of what they do when they’re having fun. It’s great to see them enjoying whatever that is, but a part of us tends to be jealous.

When we see peers over and over again having a blast and getting lots of likes, it appears that they’re always having fun and they’re very popular. We forget that they have moments when they’re sitting alone bored and scrolling through social media wishing they were the one in the photo. They also have times that they feel all alone.

The grass is always greener on the other side. Believe me. Everyone has down moments. We just don’t post to say we’re doing nothing. Unless we want attention – and there’s a problem there too!

FOMO is a big problem

FOMO leads to more time online checking and rechecking to be sure you’re not missing the latest and greatest.

Excessive social media use can lead to less sleep – which in turn increases anxiety, depression, risk of accidental injury or death, and more.

The drive to know what’s going on at all times can lead to checking in at inappropriate times:

  • In class. How many have had phones taken away?
  • While driving. This puts not only your life in danger, but also the lives of others. Not to mention that it’s illegal in many states – including when you’re at a stop light.
  • While in the presence of others. It’s rude to check your phone when others are trying to talk to you! You can make your friend feel insignificant if it’s more important to play on your phone when you’re spending time with them.
  • When you should be sleeping. Being on a screen suppresses your melatonin so you don’t feel tired. If you have to get up in 8 hours, you should be sleeping.
  • When you should be studying or working. How often do you stay up late to finish homework? Think about how much time you wasted while doing your homework and checking in. And how many hours you spend procrastinating doing what you should be doing.
  • When you could be exercising. Obesity is a real risk of too much sitting around looking at your phone. Get out there and move!
Do you feel compelled to keep scrolling until you have seen posts from absolutely everyone? #FOMO #adhdkcteen #JOMO

Today’s teen culture is built around how people appear online. The number of followers and likes seem to indicate how good or popular you are.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Generations of people were happy and satisfied, popular and self fulfilled without shouting to the world what they were doing.

Studies show that social media use is linked to anxiety and depression. It might actually be hazardous to your mental health.

Friends often have insomnia so reach out online. Don’t feel like you need to see their post immediately. It will be there tomorrow – you can see it when you have scheduled social media time.

What can you do to learn JOMO?

Embrace #JOMO: the joy of missing out. Live in the moment and appreciate life. #ADHDKCTeen

You might think it’s too hard to stay off line. How will you possibly keep up with the gossip and know what’s going on?

That’s the point… you don’t need to! Your real friends and family will talk to you about what’s important to them. You can share with them everything that’s important to you by talking with them and being with them.

FOMO is strong. Fear is a big driver of what we do and how we feel.

Find a passion

If you love a sport, art, music, or other activity, schedule regular time to do that activity.

Being with others who share the same passion will encourage you do do it even more and build strong connections with people.

Enjoy the moment

There’s a lot of research that show mindfulness helps to lower our anxiety and fight depression.

It’s not easy to learn, but there are many ways to be mindful. Start with an app or read a book. Attend a group session or class on mindfulness.

Manage time online

Keep track of how much time you spend online. Break that time into essential school and work related things and non-essential time.

Think about how much time you really should be spending online. Where can you cut back to give yourself more time to be with friends and family or to practice self-care tasks? Wouldn’t it be great to have more time for sleep?

For more on managing screen time, see Screen Time Limits. There are even some examples for apps that can help you track your time.

Unfollow

If you recognize that certain people trigger FOMO, unfollow them.

By unfollowing certain people you can still check on your friends and family who live out of town and stay in touch with them. But the people you don’t really care about won’t bother you. And you can look forward to catching up with friends who actually tell you what’s going on in their lives.

You won’t see all the people you don’t need to see, so you’ll not feel like you’re left out, but you can spend less time scrolling and more time doing other stuff.

Make connections IRL

Stop building your self image based on your online image.

If you feel compelled to check on your posts to see how many have liked it, you have a problem.

Do you feel compelled to check your posts to see how many likes you get? Does this help define your self image? #socialmediaproblems #JOMO #FOMO #adhdkcteen

Be yourself. Don’t worry about how many likes you get. Think about what matters to you can get involved in that.

Enjoy friends when you spend time with them in real life. It’s okay to like their posts, but it’s even better to share time doing fun things together.

Let friends know you really care by asking them to do things. They’ll appreciate the effort because they’re probably suffering from FOMO too! Of course they could have conflicts, so don’t be offended if they can’t always be available.

Take a break

I’ve seen several people over the years share a “see you later” post on their social sites. They let friends know they’re going off line for a day, a weekend, or more.

While I don’t really think you need to publicize it, I do think taking a break and not checking any social sites for a specified time can help you find what you’re missing by being online all the time. It can take time away from our screens to appreciate all the other stuff life has to offer. This extra time forces us to think about what we can do with our time. Boredom can lead to finding ourselves and our passions.

Publicizing going off line has pros and cons. It can seem to be a way to draw attention to yourself, but it also can let people know that you’re not hurt or in trouble. Some friends might be offended if you don’t reply quickly to a post. This will let you know you’re not mad at them or ignoring them. If this is the only way you feel like you don’t need to check in, then let people know you’re checking out. That also might stimulate them to do the same!

Make yourself, not companies, happy

Social sites, such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter are businesses. They’re in it to make money.

The more you check your social sites, the happier those businesses are. They’re doing their job if they get you to spend time on their products. They make more money if you see their ads. The more time spent on their app, the better investment they are to their sponsors, which brings in more money to them. They use psychology to get users to use their platform more. They don’t care if it makes you less mentally and physically healthy.

Stop playing into their game. Resist the urge to hop online.

Make yourself happy by finding a passion off the screen and doing it. Don’t make your life about the right photo op. If you live life to its fullest, you’ll have the memories… which is infinitely better than the likes from people you don’t really care about!

6 tips to de-stress

We all have stressful things happen, but what can we do about it? Learning to de-stress is possible with these simple tips.

We all have stressful things happen, but what can we do about it? Learning to de-stress is possible. 

1. Exercise

You’ve heard that exercise is good for your health, but you may not realize how great it is for your mind too. Or maybe you do realize it, but you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t think you have time for it.

Bill Phillips

Make the time. This one’s important enough that it should remain a priority when you’re busy.

Plus exercise has been shown to help clear your mind so you can focus and be more efficient at everything else you do. It helps you sleep better at night, which in turn helps you focus better and feel less stressed. 

2. Cut back to limit stress

If you’re overwhelmed, prioritize what is important.

If you have a ton of difficult classes, maybe consider limiting that next semester. Instead of taking all AP or IB classes, pick the one or two that you feel are best for you and then the regular level of class for the other subjects. Take a fun elective that won’t involve as much homework. That can help broaden your skills and still looks good on a college application if you grow from the experience. Remember that colleges want well rounded students, not those who only eat, sleep, and study.

If you have an after school job, volunteer regularly, and are in a sport, maybe that’s just too much to do after your school day. Think about what is important and limit the extras. That doesn’t mean you have to quit your job, but maybe ask to limit hours after school. If you volunteer, limit when you go. Depending on what type of volunteering you’re doing, see if you can arrange things to work with your course load. If you are doing a bunch of little volunteer experiences that aren’t really interesting to you, maybe find something you’re passionate about and spend time with that one thing.

Remember that if you take on too much, you can’t do everything well, so you will not be your best. Mental health is more important than doing it all. Cut back and focus on what’s really important to you getting where you want to be!

As you’re cutting back, be aware of what’s important.

You can’t simply stop doing coursework if you’re a student.

It’s not wise to cut back on the essentials of sleeping and exercise. These should always be entered into your planner so they get done.

You still need time to relax and be around your friends and family. Put that time in your schedule and make it happen. 

I strongly feel that giving to others helps us on many levels, so doing volunteer service is great – but it should mean something to you. Don’t just do something because you feel like you need to do it. Find things you enjoy and help others using that passion.

It’s all about balance.

It's all about balance. You can do anything, but not everything.

3. Eat healthy to decrease stress

We’ve all heard that we should eat healthy. It’s not new news at all that we should try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and complex carbohydrates. 

Yet many of us fail to eat well for a variety of reasons. I know all the excuses, but we all need to problem solve to find solutions, not just grab another unhealthy snack and keep repeating the same mistake.

If you make a few adjustments each day, you’ll start noticing a difference in how you feel.  Start by choosing water over soda or juice. Try eating a fruit or vegetable with each meal and snack. Pass on the crackers, cookies, and other junk foods. Try a new healthy food if you’re picky. 

If you aren’t hungry mid-day due to medicine, be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. This does not mean cereal. Healthy breakfasts that will last through the day include protein and fiber. 

If money is an issue, talk to people who can help. Start with your school counselor.

Many of us fail to eat well for a variety of reasons. A healthy diet is key to being healthy.

4. Sleep

I can’t stress enough how important sleep is. 

We seem to underestimate the value and see it as time wasted. 

Time management problems all day do not give you the excuse to stay up finishing homework.

You should never stay up to do something you wouldn’t get up early to do. For instance, you would probably not set your alarm to wake up and watch a YouTube video, right? That means you shouldn’t stay up “just a few minutes” later to watch it. Go to sleep. It will be there later.

Sleep is a necessity. Make time for it.

Use all the night features your computer and phone offer.

Make sure your phone will never wake you if a friend tries to call or text in the middle of the night. Just because they’re suffering from insomnia doesn’t mean you need to be awake. Set the night mode. Tell your friends you won’t respond at night so they don’t keep trying. Blame it on your parents or your doctor. They won’t care. (And if your parents are following the standard recommendations, they will take your phone away an hour or two before bedtime…)

The blue light from your screen keeps the melatonin in your brain from rising. You need melatonin to feel tired. That means if you’re using any screen with normal lighting, you won’t feel tired and you’re likely to lay awake even if you go to bed. 

5. Screen time limits

This seems to repeat what I just said, but there’s more. So much more that it’s covered in Screen Time Limits

I covered this in detail, but want to remind you to check out some screen management apps that might help you take control of your phone and computer time.

  • Moment (currently iOs only, but Android version coming)
  • Forest is an interesting app that not only helps you stay on task, but you can earn points that helps to plant a real tree – helping our world
  • Flipped
  • Mute 

I’ll bet you underestimate how much time you spend online. Try the apps mentioned above. Use the knowlege gained about your use to adjust it to an amount that allows you to be productive and have time for the necessities of life.

It’s too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions 24/7. You’re fighting against an industry that invests in finding ways to get you hooked and wanting to spend more time on their content. We get dopamine hits each time we play online. Dopamine makes us feel good, so we want more.

It's too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions 24/7. You're fighting against an industry that invests in finding ways to get you hooked and wanting to spend more time on their content.

6. Take 5

Take 5-10 minutes each day just for you. It’s not much time, and if you make the time, you’ll find that it pays back!

Set a dedicated time to reflect: What did you accomplish – celebrate the big and the little goals met. Are there things that can be high priority tomorrow. What are you thankful for?

You can go one step further and also make time throughout every day to be mindful. I’m still in the learning stages of this, and experts always talk about practicing mindfulness. We can all practice it daily. Find something that you do every day and link it to stopping to be purposefully mindful. Start a morning routine.

For more mindfulness tips and several free apps to help guide your mindfulness, see my Pinterest Mindfulness board. If you use mindfulness regularly, you will notice less stress. 

Screen Time Limits

We all waste time on our screens. Companies pay to find ways to encourage people to use their sites. They use psychology to make you want to spend more time online. People with ADHD are at risk due to their executive management issues with time management, impulsivity, and more. Screen addiction isn’t an accepted diagnosis yet in the US, but excessive screen use certainly is a problem for many people. Learning to set personal screen time limits is one way we can make a positive impact on our own lives.

How much time do you spend?

See where you spend your time.

Do you check messages and notifications before you even get out of bed? Does that help or hinder you getting started in your day?

My guess is you could use that time for a much better purpose.

Mindfulness is a great way to start your day. Just getting out of bed and getting ready for your day will keep your parent off your back – which in itself is a better start to the day!

If you spend 3 hours a day doing mindless stuff online checking social sites, playing games, and watching videos, that’s 3 hours a day you could be productive. Limit it to a reasonable amount of time and then stop.

Take back your time!

Tracking and limiting time on your phone

Find an app that can help you track your time online. Many will work across several social site platforms as well as general browsers.

Some will allow you to set a daily reminder for a custom interval that pops up an alert when you’ve spent your chosen limit in the app for that day. It won’t lock you out, but sometimes we all need a gentle reminder to get back to real life.

Go to your app store and search “time on phone tracker” or “phone addiction” or check out these popular apps:

  • Moment (currently iOs only, but Android version coming)
  • Forest is an interesting app that not only helps you stay on task, but you can earn points that helps to plant a real tree – helping our world
  • Flipped
  • Mute 

I already have parents, why do I need this?

I know some of you will think this is too much like when parents set limits, but for many with ADHD, it is too risky to have full access to phones and all of their distractions.

Websites, gaming sites, advertisers, and more pay people to look into the psychology of what makes people want to play and participate.

We get a dopamine hit each time we play. We need to fight the urges that they’re trying to create.

In short, we need to stay in control of ourselves. You don’t want anyone or anything controlling your brain, right?

Bonus: If you show your parents that you are responsible in this (and all things) they tend to give you more freedom. It’s all part of growing up and showing maturity!

We are all at risk of wasting time online.  Learning to set personal screen time limits is one way we can make a positive impact on our own lives.

Schedule time 

Schedule time to check your messages.

It’s important to know what’s going on, but you don’t need to check every few minutes. People can wait.

Trust me, it was much better years ago when people didn’t have instant access to everyone and everything. People had less stress. Return to that mindset. There’s a time and a place for everything. Focus on what you’re doing at the moment, whether that’s talking with a real live person, paying attention to your teacher, working or studying. Especially if you’re driving. Messages can wait!

Ask your friends and parents to join you in this. You can set times to check in, then do other things at other times. If they know you limit your time checking messages, they won’t get as anxious when you don’t reply in 2.4 seconds… It’s that need for instant gratification and response that is a huge driver of anxiety in some people. Let it go…

Trust me.

Turn off notifications

If you get into the zone writing a paper and a notification box pops up, you’ve lost the zone.

You waste time responding to the message and your focus is gone.

You’ll have to get back into the paper writing mindset, which wastes your time and energy.

Use the online time management apps listed above to help with this. 

For more information:

How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions

Screen Addiction Among Teens: Is There Such A Thing?