Affirmations for Difficult Times
Written by Sharon Martin, LCSW on March 19, 2020
"Stress is an inevitable part of life. We all feel overwhelmed, confused, and anxious at times. And there are many effective and healthy ways to cope with stress, including releasing physical tension (such as through exercise or a hot bath) and reducing obsessive worries and negative thoughts.
Using affirmations is one way to change our thoughts and feelings. They can help us focus on how we want to feel and on our ability to cope.
However, if affirmations are going to work, they need to be realistic and authentic. Some positive affirmations are really corny and unbelievable (like, I am full of peace and joy). Telling yourself that you're full of peace and joy when you're actually full of tension and worry, probably isnt going to feel true or helpful. Instead, try to acknowledge your situation and feelings (that you feel stressed and anxious) and focus on how you want to cope — what you want to think, feel, and do in response.
Below are some affirmations that you may find helpful during times of stress and uncertainty. What feels true and right and helpful, certainly varies from person to person. So, use these as ideas to create your own affirmations or mantras. For example, you can make them more specific by stating something in particular that you're grateful for or a particular coping strategy that you will use.
Affirmations for stress and anxiety
By: Elizabeth Scott, MS | Fact checked by Sean Blackburn on June 24, 2020
"From giving an important presentation at work to attending a party by yourself, there are countless situations that can be impacted by negative thoughts. Whether or not you have a diagnosed panic disorder, it's easy to get distracted by negativity and fears that can lead to a downward spiral of emotions.
In order to move forward, it's important to swap negativity with rational, positive thoughts.1 This shift can come to you more easily and automatically with practice, eventually shaping new thinking habits and strides toward recovery.
How to Ease Stress With Affirmations
Here are some ways to use positive affirmations to manage stress, particularly when dealing with anxiety at the same time.
Identify and Stop Negative Thoughts
First, learn to identify negative thoughts so you can nix the negativity as soon as it enters your mind. For example, if you found yourself thinking, "I'm going to look stupid if I go to that party alone," identify the negative thought and correct yourself in the moment.
Consciously decide to reframe and move your thoughts into a more positive direction.2 Remind yourself that others will likely be arriving alone, that people are looking forward to seeing you, and that you will probably have a good time. These thoughts can help put you in a better frame of mind.
Use Positive Affirmations
You may find it helpful to learn positive affirmations ahead of time so you're prepared when triggering situations occur. Consider the following options for common scenarios.
When faced with a situation that generates fear, such as traveling or meeting new people, try repeating positive affirmations that acknowledge your negative thoughts or emotions and let them go:
Managing your anxiety or panic disorder can be particularly difficult in times of stress, such as when you need to give a presentation in public or will be going to a networking event at work. While you may be tempted to call out sick or avoid the situation altogether, that can be harmful to you and your career. Instead, remind yourself of these affirmations:
Sometimes positive thinking can be taken too far, so it's important to remain grounded. When positive affirmations become unrealistic, they can actually trigger more anxiety as your subconscious mind notes that the ideas aren't realistic.3 You can find yourself more stressed if you start convincing yourself that you can do things you're not prepared for, and the reality of failure hits hard.
Notice that the examples given above focus on realistic and true statements that are also positive. These include what you will gain, what you have accomplished in the past, and what you will realistically achieve."
By Guy Winch, Ted Talk
"We'll go to the doctor when we feel flu-ish or a nagging pain. So why don't we see a health professional when we feel emotional pain: guilt, loss, loneliness? Too many of us deal with common psychological-health issues on our own, says Guy Winch. But we don't have to. He makes a compelling case to practice emotional hygiene — taking care of our emotions, our minds, with the same diligence we take care of our bodies."
Setting meaningful goals can help manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. By setting meaningful goals, you eliminate feelings of being lost or stagnant in life and create a clear path for achieving your goals. This clear path and your connection to the "why" will help you stay motivated by keeping your focus on achieving such a meaningful goal. You'll have the ability to visualize your success.
By: Kate Rope
What This Means: That becoming a mother is a stressful event. In fact, pregnancy itself is actually considered a “stressor” in the medical literature. Struggle is going to be part of the process. It’s like labor and delivery. It is a tremendous physical and emotional undertaking to bring a person into the world. We accept that physical pain and other medical complications can be part and parcel of making and birthing a human being. Why do we think our brains would get away Scott-free? That doesn’t make sense.
There's More To Life Than Being Happy
By: Dr. Emily Esfahani Smith, TED talks
"I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift. And I wasn't alone; my friends -- they struggled with this, too.
Eventually, I decided to go to graduate school for positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. But what I discovered there changed my life. The data showed that chasing happiness can make people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate has been rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There's an emptiness gnawing away at people, and you don't have to be clinically depressed to feel it. Sooner or later, I think we all wonder: Is this all there is? And according to the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It's a lack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path. And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they're more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer."
Watch video below to hear more about the pillars to building a more meaningful life.
What predicts success?
By: Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth, TED Talk
"Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn't the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of "grit" as a predictor of success. Dr. Duckwork describes "grit" as passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. She states that grit is having stamina; sticking with your future, day-in, day-out, not just for the week, or month, but for years. Additionally, she says that grit is working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is like living life like a marathon, not a sprint." Do you have grit? If you don't, what things do you think you can do to change your perspective on long-term goals?
By: Brad Stulberg
"When I first started training for marathons a little over ten years ago, my coach told me something I’ve never forgotten: that I would need to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I didn’t know it at the time, but that skill, cultivated through running, would help me as much, if not more, off the road as it would on it.
Research shows that, if anything, physical activity boosts short-term brain function and heightens awareness. And even on days they don’t train — which rules out fatigue as a factor — those who habitually push their bodies tend to confront daily stressors with a stoic demeanor. While the traditional benefits of vigorous exercise — like prevention and treatment of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and osteoporosis — are well known and often reported, the most powerful benefit might be the lesson that my coach imparted to me: In a world where comfort is king, arduous physical activity provides a rare opportunity to practice suffering.
What’s remarkable and encouraging about these studies is that the subjects weren’t exercising at heroic intensities or volumes. They were simply doing something that was physically challenging for them – going from no exercise to some exercise; one need not be an elite athlete or fitness nerd to reap the bulletproofing benefits of exercise.
The truth, cliché as it may sound, is this: When you develop physical fitness, you’re developing life fitness, too."
By: Azriel ReShel
"We seem to do it naturally for others, but what does it mean to do it for ourselves? For me, holding space means becoming the container to experience myself; to grow, to feel, to express, to test out, to live. It is being present, treating yourself with care, consideration, kindness, compassion and love. Hearing the needs of your body and mind, feeling your emotions, and listening to the yearning of your soul. It’s a way of being, a lifestyle, a profound choice and a stand you take. It’s not a belief system, but is rather a way of being with yourself and meeting your own needs. This can be lifesaving in intimate relationships, where we can ruin a good thing by trying to make the other meet all our needs. We spend every minute of the day with ourselves. How much of it is good, supportive, and kind?"
Click on the link below to read a more in-depth description on 9 examples of how you can shape your life for the purpose of 'being there' for yourself.
9 steps to holding space for yourself:
1. Embracing your imperfection
2. Saying no
3. Developing boundaries.
4. Communing with yourself
6. Reaching for support
7. Being authentic
8. Being a good parent to yourself
9. Developing supportive rituals
By David Gelles, NY Times
"Anger is a natural, life-affirming emotion. It lets us know when a boundary has been crossed, when our needs are not being met, or when someone we care about is in danger. But when misdirected, anger can harm our physical health and our relationships. Being mindful of anger means not suppressing, denying or avoiding it and also not acting out in harmful ways. Instead, connect with the direct experience of the anger, and then decide what action you want to take.” — Jessica Morey, executive director of Inward Bound Mindfulness Education"
Here is a list of points that Ms. Morey suggests when processing anger:
Recognize and respect that anger is happening. It’s part of the human experience.
Stop fueling the anger: Cut off the stories about how you were wronged or why your anger is justified. Instead, shift your attention to the body.
What part of your body is not feeling angry? Your feet? Your back? The breath at the tip of your nose? Are there any sensations in your body that feel neutral, even pleasant? What else is happening around you? Are there any neutral or pleasant sounds you can attend to?
Rest your attention on these sensations for a few minutes, allowing yourself to find some calm. If your mind wanders back into thinking about the anger-producing situation, come back to these neutral sensations.
Investigate the anger more directly. Where do you feel it? Is it in your chest? Your hands? Your jaw? What does the anger feel like? How do the sensations of anger change as you pay attention to them? Do any other emotions show up underneath the anger?
Explore the information this anger has for you. What is its message? What does it need? Was a boundary crossed?
Reflect on how you could skillfully respond to what is making you angry. What would be the most helpful response right now?
Finally, commit to taking whatever skillful action is needed without doing any harm — whether it’s a walk, a nap or a direct, difficult conversation.
How to Meditate
By David Gelles, NY Times
"Meditation is a simple practice available to all, which can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity and promote happiness. Learning how to meditate is straightforward, and the benefits can come quickly. Here, we offer basic tips to get you started on a path toward greater equanimity, acceptance and joy. Take a deep breath, and get ready to relax."
Click below for a list of guided meditation and mindfulness exercises.
By JESSICA ZUCKER and RYAN ALEXANDER-TANNER, New York Times
Many times holding rigid or high expectations of pregnancy, delivery, or the postpartum period can lead to symptoms of distress. Click below to see more illustrations on how there is no "wrong or right" way to having a baby.
We Are Wired to Be Outside
By: Florence Williams, National Geographic
"When we get closer to nature—be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree—we do our overstressed brains a favor.... Our brains aren’t tireless three-pound machines; they’re easily fatigued. When we slow down, stop the busywork, and take in beautiful natural surroundings, not only do we feel restored, but our mental performance improves too."
"A large study found less death and disease in people who lived near parks or other green space—even if they didn’t use them. Researchers suspect that nature works primarily by lowering stress. Compared with people who have lousy window views, those who can see trees and grass have been shown to recover faster in hospitals, perform better in school, and even display less violent behavior in neighborhoods where it’s common. Such results jibe with experimental studies of the central nervous system. Measurements of stress hormones, respiration, heart rate, and sweating suggest that short doses of nature—or even pictures of the natural world—can calm people down and sharpen their performance."
By: Dr. Andrea Chisholm
"Having a baby is one of the happiest times in life, but it can also be one of the saddest.
For most new mothers, the first several days after having a baby is an emotional roller coaster ride. Thrilling moments of happiness and joy are abruptly interrupted by a plunge into moments of depressive symptoms including weeping, anxiety, anger, and sadness. These “baby blues” usually peak in the first two to five days after delivery, and in most women, go away as quickly as they came.
Except sometimes they don’t go away...."
The Power of Vulnerability
By Brene Brown
"Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity."
In her talk she says, "vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging and love."
By Norine Vander Hooven, LCSW
"Have you ever had your heart race, palms become sweaty, or have difficulty focusing because you’re so nervous? These are some of the signs of anxiety. Anxiety can be debilitating for some people, and for others it might just amount to a few minutes of feeling nervous.
Unfortunately, for some people when anxiety does hit, it can cause you to freeze and be unable to focus, respond, or engage in everyday tasks. For most people, anxiety is the result of thinking about something out of your control, or of something in the future.
Jon Kabat-Zinn PhD, is the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.“
Click below to learn about how to: (1) Regulate Your Breathing; (2) Use Your Senses; and (3) Engage in an Activity that Requires Focus
By Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LGSW
"From the time that we are children, many of us are told things such as, “don’t cry,” or “there’s nothing to be sad about.” As a culture we are often taught that we should try to avoid unpleasant emotions at all costs. Thus, for many the primary impulse when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions is to try to escape from their feelings, whether it is through alcohol, drugs, restricting food, binging, workaholism, busyness, compulsive sex, or a variety of other self-harming behaviors.
However, I believe that it is far healthier to “lean into” your experiences of pain, rather than trying to numb your emotions. The following are three reasons that it is important to allow yourself to process and experience your feelings."
10 Essential Tips for Long-Term Love
By Dr. Roni Beth Tower, ABPP
"A romantic relationship can be easily recognized by its intense and sometimes irrational driving force of emotion. Passion fuels our behavior, guides or distorts thoughts, changes physical and chemical functioning, and alters lives.
The romance might begin with a “coup de foudre," or the lightning bolt that we think of as love at first sight. The attraction can seem to have no earthly reason or explanation, and may appear to emanate from another planet, lifetime, or dimension. It could be the sort of experience that compels someone to abruptly stand up in the middle of a meeting and follow an invisible beam pointing to a person standing across a room.
Romantic love can also arise more slowly, building on a firm foundation of friendship. A base of shared history allows reason to remain in control for at least an initial critical period. It doesn't matter how you found your perfect partner; you typically know when he or she has arrived—and the rest is in the details.
But you must tend to these details to make your relationship flourish. These 10 strategies will help you nourish and sustain a close, romantic relationship."
What Is Depression?
Helen M. Farrell, animation by Artrake Studio
"Depression is the leading cause of disability in the world; in the United States, close to ten percent of adults struggle with the disease. But because it’s a mental illness, it can be a lot harder to understand than, say, high cholesterol. Helen M. Farrell examines the symptoms and treatments of depression, and gives some tips for how you might help a friend who is suffering."
By Sharon Horesh Bergquist, MD
Stress can be helpful for small bursts of energy or productivity. However, chronic stress can be damaging to the body and can even change the structure of your brain. Learning how to manage your stress (versus stress controlling your life) is critical for your well-being. Research consistently shows that exercise and meditation are excellent ways on managing and decreasing stress. Additionally, regularly engaging in exercise and meditation have been shown to increase the size of parts of your brain that are responsible for improving memory. Click below for a quick video animation on how stress affects your brain.
The Truth Behind Happiness
by Dr. Robert Waldinger
"What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life."
Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.
By Brene Brown
We're all guilty of blaming others. Here's a short and funny video offering an explanation as to why we might quickly jump to blaming others when something goes wrong. She explains that blaming is a temporary discharge of anger, which is different and less effective than holding others accountable and being vulnerable enough to express our own feelings.
by Amit Chowdhry
Do you find yourself spending a lot of time on social media? Have you ever noticed that it can negatively impact your mood? Research is consistently showing that there is a direct relationship between social media usage and depression. More specifically, research is showing that the more time spent on social media or frequency of visits may increase a person's likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Continue reading to learn how social media can lead to depressive symptoms...
by Robin Shreeves
"Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."