How to use positive affirmations against anxiety

COVID has continually reshaped our understanding of “normal” life in the last two years, regularly upending plans with loved ones and school or work schedules and stressing our health care system and frontline workers. It’s no surprise then that experts are finding anxiety rates have continued to trend upward despite an easing of restrictions and the availability of vaccines.

If you find anxiety interfering with your everyday life, you may want to give positive affirmations a try.

Anxiety in the age of COVID-19

Anxiety is a naturally occurring feeling of fear or unease, and while everyone experiences anxiety at times, it can become debilitating when those thoughts are especially strong or long-lasting. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that more than one-fifth of the population has an anxiety disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders are caused by a multitude of factors, including:

  • An imbalance of mood-regulating hormones
  • Genetics
  • A history of traumatic events
  • Long-term health conditions
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Day-to-day life experiences like unemployment, loneliness, work stress, etc.

For many people, COVID brings with it a host of traumatic events: illness, death, unemployment, scarcity of resources, loneliness, disruption of relationships and routines, and workplace challenges. Anxiety related specifically to COVID now has a name: COVID-19 Anxiety Syndrome. Mental health experts identify it as an emerging mental health crisis as it persists even after restrictions have been lifted across the globe.

A recent study conducted by Kingston University and London South Bank University found that this anxiety isn’t just feeling uneasy while out in public. For 23% of survey participants, their anxiety keeps them from visiting public places out of fear of contracting the virus.

While there are many treatments for anxiety, including therapy, support groups, and medication, positive affirmations for anxiety can be effective, especially when paired with other treatment options.

Why positive affirmations work

Positive affirmations are positive phrases that you regularly repeat out loud to challenge ingrained negative thinking. Over time, they can break the cycle of negative self-talk and allow you to overcome barriers of low self-confidence, low self-esteem, low motivation, anxiety, poor body image, and more.

The practice of reciting positive affirmations may seem wishy-washy or overly simple to sceptics, but the fact is they are supported by neuroscience when used correctly.  Multiple studies have shown that positive affirmations reduce stress, make people more open to change, and improve overall well-being and academic performance. 

In addition, MRI evidence suggests that the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, or the part of the brain involved in self-related information processing, has increased activity when someone repeats positive affirmations. 

How to use affirmations effectively against anxiety

For best results, you want to select affirmations tailored to your specific needs. If you are experiencing anxiety, consider the following affirmations:

  • With each exhale, I will release any stress my body carries.
  • I will focus my attention, energy, and thoughts on the things I love.
  • I will get through this, and everything will be okay.
  • I’ve overcome this challenge before, and everything turned out fine.
  • It will get easier if I keep trying.
  • Thoughts are not necessarily true and can be changed.
  • I will choose to focus my thoughts on the positives.
  • I trust myself and will listen to my intuition.
  • Change takes time to see.
  • Asking for help is brave.

If none of those anxiety affirmations relates to your specific anxiety triggers, consider writing your own. 

Once you have your affirmations, you want to repeat them out loud to yourself regularly. Remember to speak them out loud and say them in a positive, powerful way. In other words, say them like you mean them!

anxiety affirmations button

Some people find success when they print off the cards above and stick them to places they see every day, like their mirror, closet door, or computer monitor. When you are starting to integrate the practice into your daily routine, say the affirmations in the morning or at night before bed. Over time, the affirmations will replace your subconscious anxious thoughts. 

A more effective alternative for you may be to carry the cards in your wallet. Whenever you find yourself thinking anxious thoughts (like before a big presentation or when entering a crowded public place), pull them out and say them out loud. Doing so will help you break the cycle and redirect your thoughts in a more positive direction the moment you experience them.

You can also pair your anxiety affirmations with other self-care habits, like mindful breathing and journaling. Positive affirmations are a significant first step towards dealing with anxiety. Remember to take a deep breath and say them confidently until they replace your anxiety-inducing thought processes. If you find that they aren’t enough to help you overcome your anxiety, seek professional help. It’s a long road, but worth it when anxiety stops controlling your life.

Photo by Joice Kelly

The Coach Space

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