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USU Extension Education Highlight: Combating anxiety with sour candy

Colorful, sour gummy worms
Yes and Studio

Regan LaFever: Welcome to another Extension Education Highlight by Utah Public Radio. I'm Regan LaFever and today I'm joined by Social Work Extension Specialists Eva Timothy.

Eva, what's your background with Extension? And what's your specialty and you know, where does your passion lie?

Eva Timothy: So I do a lot of programming with youth positive youth development, and then also with families and, and working on improving, bonding and connecting, and just the general health of the community, whether it be physical or mental or emotional.

And I really have a passion for working with the youth. I love families and the youth. I see so much potential in our youth and the things that they can accomplish in the future. So that's my passion.

Regan LaFever: That's so awesome. And that kind of ties in really well with what we're gonna talk about today. So as I've been scrolling through social media, I've been seeing a viral way to combat anxiety attacks by eating sour candy. Just tell us what you know.

Eva Timothy: Yeah, so what's going on here, what people are using is a tool called grounding. And grounding actually uses your five senses. So sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, those types of things. And the sour candy comes into play with the the sense of tasting. And that sour candy, what it does, is it takes the brain focus from whatever might be triggering the panic attack, to that really sour, intense taste, and it focuses the brain on something else. So essentially helps it to calm.

Regan LaFever: Interesting, what are some other grounding techniques, just so we can get a feel for some other different examples?

Eva Timothy: Absolutely. Yes. So grounding techniques are wonderful for taking our brain and focusing in on something else when we are struggling. So it's used a lot for those who have post traumatic stress disorder and anxiety attacks, and they feel like they're right back in that situation, that scenario that causes them so much stress.

And so a lot of the times it can be focusing on what we hear. So if we take a minute, and we just focus on the things that we hear around us, or it can be what are you feeling? What does it feel like for your feet to be in your shoes? What does it feel like for your body to sit against the chair. So we're just trying to shift our focus to something else and become aware of our current present moment and situation and what it feels like or smells like, or what we're seeing.

Regan LaFever: That is so interesting. So I've heard of some teachers and you know, friends keeping sour candy in their classrooms and their backpacks numb for anybody who might be, you know, suddenly needing it. Do you think that's something that could be a little bit more common as we start to hear about this a little more?

Eva Timothy: Yeah, I do. I think this is a great way for people to use part of those grounding techniques.

But there is always the okay, this might help in the moment. But if you are having panic attacks, it is necessary to be aware of the fact that maybe there's some other work that needs to be done, what's causing these panic attacks. So yes, while the candy can be very beneficial, that sour candy and helping people right in the moment, I would definitely encourage going to talk to someone about what is causing this trigger to have these panic attacks so that you can overcome it. So you might not need that candy in the future.

But yeah, I think it's a great way to help in the moment and for teachers and other people to have it on hand. Because there are so many people who do experience anxiety or panic attacks. And that can be a great way for us to support the people around us. Absolutely.

Regan LaFever: Is this something that you would heard of before I reached out for an interview?

Eva Timothy: No, honestly, it was not. But then as I looked on social media, and I looked around on the internet, I was like, oh, yup, it's a thing. Hey, how cool was that? I was really impressed with society and how they're like, how can we help these people? How can we help the people we know as they're experiencing these difficulties? So I'm very impressed with what technology has been able to share around the world, possibly with the sour candy and the use of it to help people as they're experiencing panic attacks.

Regan LaFever: Yes, absolutely. Well, thanks so much for coming on. I really appreciate it.

Eva Timothy: Absolutely.

Mental health resources:

Hunstman Mental Health Institute:

USU Extension resources:

Substance abuse and mental health resources:

CDC resources:

The National Institute of Mental Health: