When Worry Weighs You Down . . .

Do you sometimes get really worried? Maybe you’re scared of tarantulas . . . or tornadoes . . . or throw-up. Maybe you’re scared, and you don’t know why exactly. No matter what you worry about or how much you worry, one thing’s for sure: You’re not the only one! Tons of other kids feel exactly the same way.

What does worry feel like?

“I want to hide.”
—Liam, age seven

“It feels like a weight you’re carrying around.”
—Harper, age eleven

“My heart pounds, and I just want to run away.”
—Annie, age eight

“It feels like there’s a gate in my brain, and whenever I’m afraid, that gate opens and all my fears run through and have a battle with my common sense.”
—Giovanni, age ten

What helps?

“Taking deep breaths makes me feel better. I say, ‘Roses in,’ and inhale and then, ‘Sharp thorns out,’ and breathe out.”

—Stella, age eight

“I hug my doll, Jessie. She takes care of everything for me—even bad dreams and thunder.”
—Hannah, age eight

“I just remember that it will go away and that everybody has a little anxiety, even grown-ups.”
—Frank, age nine

“You can’t push worry away until you actually do what you’re worried about. Then you feel like you accomplished something, and it feels good.”
—Emma, age nine

What to Do When You Worry

Worry is like an alarm going off in your head. Sometimes, it’s a real alarm that protects you from danger, like when it stops you from touching a steaming pot on the stove or petting a grizzly bear. But sometimes it’s a false alarm, blaring really loudly even though you’re perfectly safe. It doesn’t protect you—in fact, it keeps you from doing cool stuff you really want to do, like playing at recess or swimming in a lake or talking to a new friend.

Good news! Even though you didn’t turn the Worry Alarm on, you can turn it off. Not all at once, but slowly and steadily. Here’s how:

1. Tell a grown-up:

Sometimes just talking to someone about how you’re feeling makes you feel better. Plus, a grown-up you trust can help you with these next steps!

2. Trash worry thoughts:

Worry sends your brain lots of scary messages that usually start with a what-if, like, What if that spider is poisonous? What if everyone laughs at me? What if the bus is too bumpy and I get sick? Whenever a what-if message gets delivered to your brain, picture yourself sticking a big neon label on it that says, “Warning! This message is from Worry! Do NOT open!” Then toss that worry thought in the trash.

3. Talk back to your worry:

Use the facts and your super-smart brain to correct Worry’s messed-up thinking. If you’re nervous about a poisonous spider, remind yourself, “Those are really rare. This spider’s probably harmless. Anyway, it won’t bother me if I just leave it alone.” Worry can be a big bully, but you can talk back and show him who’s the boss by telling yourself, “I’m brave! I can do this!”

4. Do stuff that scares you, a little at a time:

If you’re scared of riding the bus, and you don’t get on it, the next time you see that bus, it’s going to seem more scary, and the time after that, it’ll be even scarier. But if you get on the bus the first time, it will seem less and less terrifying. So it’s really important to face your fear . . . but you don’t have to do it all at once. You can take as long as you need and conquer your fear in little steps. For example, maybe you ride the bus for only one stop the first time. Do what works for you; just keep on being brave.

Remember, you’re stronger than you think! You can totally kick Worry’s booty. And when you do, you should treat yourself to your favorite ice cream . . . with a big ol’ pile of whipped cream on top.