Anxiety is one of the most common mental health issues in the world today. In the U.S, around 1 in 5 people will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives. Many people have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, but many more feel anxious, stressed, or worried in general.
Many people work long hours, have a family to look after, or simply struggle to find a healthy work/life balance. Life and its relentless demands can easily get the better of even the most resilient of us, so it’s important to know how to help yourself step back, rest, and allow time to enjoy your life.
So, whether you’re struggling with an anxiety disorder or you experience mild anxiety from time to time, this article we’ll help you figure out how to shift your mental state into a calmer, more positive, accepting, and optimistic place in times of stress and worry. In this article, we’ll explore the power of affirmations for anxiety as a method of alleviating your anxiety-related symptoms.
All of us experience anxiety to a greater or lesser degree. Some people feel anxious or nervous during stressful times of life, such as the loss of a job, relationship, or loved one, or when moving to a new city or dealing with other health issues. Others deal with anxiety more often and struggle with one of the several recognized anxiety disorders common today. These include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Specific phobias
What is Morning Anxiety?
Morning anxiety pertains to the stress and worries felt upon waking up. It is noteworthy to mention that morning anxiety is not a medical term. The person suffering from morning anxiety is scared of what lies ahead of the day and wants to hide from the things they anticipate to be stressful. When stressed, a person’s cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is higher during the first hour after waking up, making morning anxiety more likely to occur.
The signs of morning anxiety are:
- Adrenaline rush
- An increase in blood pressure
- Worrying with no apparent cause
- Being nervous for no sound reason
- Feeling tired despite having enough hours of sleep
- Having negative thoughts
Though there are different types of anxiety, all share common characteristics. Physical symptoms of anxiety disorders include nausea, excess sweating, muscle tension, cramps, and headaches. Mental and emotional symptoms include hyper-alertness, catastrophic thinking, low self-esteem, rumination, and excessive worry.
It’s possible to treat anxiety with a combination of approaches. Typically, people who struggle with an anxiety disorder receive treatment in the form of psychotherapy, exposure therapy, or in the case of trauma-related anxiety, EMDR. In addition, some people benefit from anti-anxiety medications.
Still, as with all mental and emotional health issues, the most effective approach is to combine the above with self-help techniques and tools for self-management. One such technique is the use of affirmations.
What are affirmations?
Affirmations are words or thoughts with a healthy, positive, and constructive message. They contain messages and sentiments that help us remember our intrinsic worth, inner peace, and abundance in life.
Affirmations are sometimes called mantras. In Buddhism and Hinduism, a mantra is a word or phrase repeated over and over (i.e., ‘Om’) as means of centering one’s focus and concentration in the present moment.
However, anyone can benefit from using affirmations. The type of affirmation you use and which will be of most benefit to you depends on your unique experiences and your challenges as an individual. For example, if you experience anxiety and other issues as a result of low self-esteem, then you would benefit from affirmations and mantras on confidence and self-worth.
‘I am worthy of love.’
‘I have an intrinsic right to be here.’
‘I can take up space.’
If you struggle with unhealthy habits and mistreating yourself, then affirmations around having a healthy self-relationship would be of benefit.
‘I respect myself.’
I choose to treat myself with kindness and compassion.’
If you often constantly rely on others to validate your thoughts and feelings, your affirmation would involve validating those things for yourself. You can be your source of validation.
‘I hear, value, and respect myself.’
I am a witness to my own life.’
Do affirmations help anxiety?
Anxiety affirmations are one of a broad range of tools and techniques that can help you manage and eventually overcome your anxiety. Understand that anxiety does not vanish overnight, and there isn’t a cure-all approach to recover from it. Affirmations won’t make your anxiety disappear, but they can go a long way in bringing you into to a place where you feel calm, peaceful, relaxed, and positive.
They’re a short-term method for relieving feelings of panic and other negative emotions when your anxiety symptoms arise. Some of the main benefits of using positive affirmations in your anxious moments include:
- Improved mood
- Increased self-esteem
- Greater presence
- Increased optimism
- Improved self-relationship
- Immediate anxiety relief
- Reduced power of negative thoughts
The power of self-talk
Many of us have a lot of critical and negative self-talk running around our minds throughout the day. We’re not even aware of most of it – it lives in the subconscious mind – but it’s there. It’s more negative and cynical in some of us than others. The quality of your inner voice or self-talk largely depends on the words, messages, and sentiments you grew up with.
For example, suppose you grew up in a family dynamic in which you were frequently compared to your siblings in terms of success and achievement, and you never matched their level in your caregiver’s eyes. In that case, you may have learned to compare yourself to others and base your worth and value on your external successes and achievements. To fail today would echo a memory of childhood, and your inner critic would affirm to you that you’re not good enough.
You had no choice in whether or not you absorbed these because you were exposed to them so much in your development. Still, as an adult, you have the opportunity, even responsibility, to deprogram those internalized messages and values and replace them with more positive, healthy, and life-affirming beliefs.
It sounds almost too good and simple to really work, but addressing and reprogramming the way you talk to yourself can have a profound positive impact on your life. It’s a great way to achieve anxiety relief because it helps you challenge negative and self-deprecating, self-doubting thoughts and beliefs. Positive self-talk not only helps you manage anxiety, but it also improves every other area of your life, from your work to your relationships to your social life.
The more respectfully, constructively, and compassionately you speak to yourself, the higher the quality of yourself-relationship (the most important relationship in your adult life). When its quality is high, you also elicit a drastic improvement in the quality of all of your other relationships.
Some people doubt the point of effectiveness of affirmations. How could some simple words or phrases make such a big difference? Well, it’s easier to understand their power and importance when you understand that speaking to yourself in this way is not a matter of lying to yourself for the sake of toxic positivity.
You might think or believe that your worth is low, that you’re not lovable, or that you’re doomed to fail, and the thought of changing those things through affirmation might seem far-fetched. Of course, affirmations won’t fix everything, but they can make just enough of an impact to elicit a positive domino effect of inner change.
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch your words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny.” – Lao Tzu.
If you doubt the power of positive self-talk, remember that your negative self-talk isn’t necessarily true – it’s an echo of those messages and values you’ve learned over time. If such negative thoughts that aren’t necessarily true can make you feel so bad, then imagine how positive thoughts can make you feel.
How to use affirmations for anxiety relief
Look and listen within
To figure out the best affirmations to use, it helps to gain some self-awareness. Set aside time to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings, and be radically honest in your exploration. Some of the messages and core values we learned as children or through repeated experience are buried so deep within us that we’re not even aware of their existence.
It takes some insight to see how your internal programming has been wired. It will help to speak to a licensed mental health professional like a therapist or counselor who can serve you as a guide for your self-exploration.
Still, if you want to take things into your own hands or you are unable to access professional support for whatever reason, that’s entirely possible. Learn to mindfully sit with yourself and take an honest look at your feelings. This can be challenging at times, especially if the resurfacing of past feelings or unresolved emotions causes you stress. As such, it’s wise to begin by figuring out who you can call or speak to for support when things feel a little overwhelming.
A great way to increase your self-awareness and curiously explore the corners of your inner world is to keep a journal. Every day, or a couple of times a week, keep a journal in which you write about your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece of literature. It can be about the most mundane thoughts and feelings as well as those that spark more interest and curiosity.
Over time, through reflective journaling, you’ll become more familiar with patterns and rhythms in your way of thinking, and it will likely be much easier to identify negative thoughts clearly and work towards replacing them.
Accept (and then replace) negative thoughts
Sometimes we label our emotions and suppress the ones we don’t like. Understand that every emotion is a healthy emotion – you’re supposed to feel the full gamut of the human experience. What’s unhealthy is how we respond to our emotions. If you can respond to your emotions in a loving, positive way, then you keep yourself healthy and promote your own well-being.
Understand that positive thinking is not the same as toxic positivity. Some self-help gurus and articles focus heavily on the importance of being positive as much as possible, but that’s not how life works. We’re always going to face some challenges, such as more anxiety, struggling to process life events, thoughts of not being good enough, and feeling overwhelmed by stress. These are natural parts of life and need not be feared or suppressed. Thinking positive, then, is not about suppressing our negative thoughts, but looking at them directly, allowing them to be, and then challenging and replacing them.
Focus on the present
The thoughts and feelings associated stem from past experiences or anticipation of the future. As such, an effective way to relieve anxiety is to shift our focus and attention to the present moment. In anxiety disorders, as well as even mild experiences of anxiety, we typically sense that we are in danger,
That can be physical danger, but the feeling can also manifest as a feeling that our mental and emotional well-being is in danger. Since there is often no real danger present, and the sense of danger or threat is perceived, grounding ourselves in the present can be of great help. Positive affirmation makes it easier to viscerally understand that we are safe when we bring our attention to the here and now.
Understand your power
In each moment of your life, you have the power to choose how you respond. You can allow yourself to be reactive, subject to external effects that trigger defense mechanisms or feelings of helplessness, or you can choose to respond to life, to take a moment when you need to step back, breathe, and engage with your life in a mindful and balanced way.
“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” – Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart.
Healthy affirmations for anxiety
Below we’ve included a list of short and sweet positive affirmations to recite to yourself daily. Whether you’re anxious or not, worried and stressed or calm and peaceful, you can benefit from reciting the affirmations below. Choose some (or all) that resonate with you – perhaps three to five – and repeat them to yourself several times throughout the day.
How you recite them is up to you – you can speak them aloud, think them in your mind, record yourself speaking and playback the recording, or write them down in a journal. However, you choose to recite and repeat, try to do so with attention and focus.
Life today is hectic, and we’re inundated with messages, ads, and distractions at every turn. To get the most out of your affirmation, set aside some time to be complete with yourself. Take a break from work, step outside, or lie down on a mat and breathe deeply and consciously, and affirm the following to yourself.
- I am worthy of love.
- I am enough.
- My mistakes do not define me.
- I learn from my mistakes.
- I have intrinsic worth.
- I am loved.
- I am safe.
- I respect myself and others.
- I have everything that I need.
- I live in abundance.
- I love myself.
- I deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.
- I am not defined by anxiety.
- I can overcome anxiety.
- I am in charge of my attitude to life.
- I am capable of overcoming challenges.
- I welcome good things into my life.
- I belong.
- I am compassionate to my suffering.
- I trust myself.
- I accept my feelings, the good and the bad.
- I choose to let go of anxiety, stress, and worry.
- I cannot control life, but I can choose how to respond.
- I can stand up for myself.
- I am in charge of my life.
- I choose to be happy.
- These feelings will pass.
- I am not my emotions; I am the witness of my emotions.
Anxiety and the thoughts and feelings that come with it can be overwhelming. They can get the better of us and influence our mood for days or weeks at a time. If you’re struggling with anxiety today and you’re looking for relief, use phrases, mantras, and affirmations that work for you.
Try out different ones, and try different ways of using them like speaking, thinking, writing, or singing. Remember that affirmations do not cure your anxiety overnight, but they have a profound short-term effect on our physical and emotional state, and maybe just what you need in times of stress to feel calm and grounded again.