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Walnut Creek Magazine

Motivational Speaker Helps Teenagers Deal with Anxiety

Megan Gallagher remembers experiencing anxiety as young as five years old, but like many, it peaked when she was 14 during her freshman year at Acalanes High School in Lafayette.  “I went through such hard times then with my anxiety and body image issues,” recounts Megan. “It happened almost like clockwork every day during English class, my heart would start beating rapidly, I would get sweaty, lose my breath, and feel like I was going to pass out.”

By sophomore year, Gallagher says the anxiety and panic attacks were impacting her grades, theater performances, and friendships. “I couldn’t take it anymore.  I thought I was having a heart attack or series of strokes, so I finally told my parents who immediately put me in therapy where I learned how to deal with my anxiety through journaling, talking, breathing, tapping. It was life changing.”

Gallagher, who now lives in Los Angeles, did a brief stint at Santa Monica Community College, before diving into motivational speaking as a full-time profession. She turned to Toastmasters for training, created a Youtube channel, attended improv classes, and spoke to any group who would listen. She’s spent the last five years writing books, doing TEDx talks, and traveling around the country speaking to middle and high school students about anxiety, loving yourself, and being your own advocate in life. "I was born to do this work and share my calling to help teenagers. I love giving advice, storytelling, and consistently asking myself and others, how can I grow? How can I do better? How can I be more?”

Like many during the age of COVID-19, Gallagher has turned to podcasts, one-on-one Zoom coaching sessions, and Instagram lives to share her inspirational messages. “There is nothing on this earth more important, to me, than helping a teenager get through a rough time and getting a DM from them later that says ‘you changed my life.’” Here she shares some practical tips for coping in the new normal:

Social Media

Know yourself. Know your triggers. Know that lying in bed before you to go to sleep or when you first wake up scrolling through social media on your phone is not healthy for anyone. If looking at a feed gives you a pit in your stomach and does not make you feel better, don’t do it. If you are focused on comparison, it may be time to delete your social media apps or take a break.

Morning Ritual

I don’t think there is anything more powerful than waking up and making active choices about what you can control, what you can eat, what music to listen to, and when to workout. Make a list of what you can control and what you cannot. Focus on the list of what you can control.

Health/Wellness

My #1 go-to when I’m in a funk is the song “Maniac” from the movie Flashdance for some dance therapy. (You really can’t be in a bad mood and listen to the song “Maniac,” it’s so 80’s aerobics class. I love it.) I also love to make a healthy smoothie, go on a run, or do a class with fitness guru Katie Austin. Another one of my favorites is “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters, the music helps trick your mind and take you to a better place. It really works.

Philosophy

I really believe things happen for a reason, because even when you’re faced with the hardest challenges, when you feel like you have hit rock bottom, that’s when you can have an epiphany moment and tell yourself stories about what you can achieve. Everything is happening for you, not to you. Repeating these affirmations over, and over, and over again, is very helpful for moving forward.

 Gallagher is currently working on her next novel. Follow her on Instagram or connect at meganwgallagher.com.

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