8 Phrases To Repeat to Yourself When You're Feeling Anxiety, According to a Therapist

Woman sitting with arms crossed feeling a lot of anxiety

Alison Seponara, MS, LPC, says anxiety is a "buzzword" these days. 

"You either have anxiety or you know someone who struggles with it," says Seponara, a CBT therapist behind the @theanxietyhealer account with 570K Instagram followers. "It's a normal stress response to many different situations in our lives."

It's not hyperbole. A recent World Health Organization said anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders, affecting more than 301 million globally in 2019. No wonder many people are wondering how to calm their anxious thoughts.

Anxiety has many triggers. Seponara says the voice in your head (yours) doesn't help.

"Your self-talk can directly affect your mental health," Seponara explains. "Negative self-talk creates significant stress. It can affect your body, your mind, your life and your loved ones."

On the flip side, positive self-talk can be a calming tool for coping with anxiety. It's why Seponara recently posted the eight phrases she repeats to herself when anxious feelings pop up. The post resonated so heavily with people that more than 31.6K people double-tapped to like it. 

Seponara shared more about why the phrases work and other ways to cope with anxiety.

Related: This Is the #1 Best Food for Anxiety, According to a Registered Dietitian and a Psychologist

What Is Anxiety (Really)?

When words become buzzy, the true meaning can get lost in the sauce (see: gaslighting and narcissism). Seponara is clearing it up. First, anxiety is normal. "It's a normal stress response to many different situations in our lives," Seponara says. 

Everyone experiences stress at some point. Anxiety is different.

"While many individuals experience stress on a regular basis, afterward, they usually calm down and feel better," Seponara says. "For the rest of us, anxiety becomes so overwhelming and unmanageable that it starts to affect our quality of life."

Seponara says that a deteriorating quality of life is a flag for anxiety. Though anxiety is different for everyone, it generally happens in four phases:

  1. Anxiety ensues

  2. Avoidance of stimuli/safety behaviors

  3. Temporary sense of relief

  4. Heightened anxiety

Related: This Is the #1 Best Habit for Anxiety, According to Mental Health Experts

8 Phrases To Calm Anxiety, According to a Therapist

Seponara says that affirmations or positive self-talk coping statements are incredibly helpful for managing anxiety.

"A positive self-talk coping statement or affirmation is a short, powerful statement that allows you to consciously be in control of your thoughts and is carefully constructed to impact our daily lifestyle," Seponara says.

Unsure where to begin? Seponara shared the eight she repeats to herself when her anxiety creeps into her head.

  1. My brain is giving me the wrong signals. I am safe.

  2. I know how to cope. I trust myself.

  3. This feeling won't last forever.

  4. I accept this feeling.

  5. Thank you for this warning, but I am OK.

  6. I am a total badass. I got this.

  7. I have felt this way before, and nothing bad happened.

  8. I have a toolkit and will use it.

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Related: How To Stop Worrying That Someone Is Mad at You, According to a Psychologist

Why These Phrases Work

Thoughts are more than things floating within our heads. They are incredibly profound.

"When you say or think affirmations, they become thoughts that shape our reality," Seponara says. "It's important that we talk to ourselves differently in highly anxious situations to create a more compassionate and regulated mindset."

The problem? Seponara finds that many people do the opposite.

"A lot of what we normally say and think about ourselves can be negative, which does not create good experiences," she explains. "To truly change irrational thinking patterns, we must practice retraining our brain to think and speak in a positive way."

In fact, Seponara says people can repeat these phrases to themselves pre-emptively—as in before anxious feelings arise.

"It’s a great idea to get into the habit of using these phrases on a daily basis," she recommends. "As we practice this new skill, we begin to create new neural pathways in the brain that help our body begin to believe that it's OK to be scared, but it doesn’t always mean we're in danger."

Related: 35 Phrases To Disarm Your Inner-Critic, According to Therapists

3 Other Therapist-Backed Ways To Cope With Anxiety

1. Go outside

A change of scenery can restore a sense of peace, especially if it's nature.

"Going outside and connecting with nature can help break the cycle of anxiety," Seponara explains. "Putting your feet in the grass, feeling the sun on your skin or simply breathing in fresh air can have a grounding effect and help us regain a sense of calm."

Related: Quiet the Anxiety in Your Head—20 Best Ways To Stop Overthinking

2. Find support

Seponara says a village is critical for people trying to cope with anxiety.

"Sharing our thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend, family member or therapist can provide much-needed perspective and validation," Seponara explains. "Sometimes, just knowing that we're not alone in our struggles can make a world of difference."

3. Deep breathing exercises

When you can't speak—even to yourself—breathe.

"Deep breathing exercises can be a powerful tool for breaking out of an anxious spiral," Seponara says. "By taking slow, deep breaths and focusing on our breath, we can activate the body's relaxation response and calm our nervous system. This can help reduce the intensity of anxious thoughts and bring us back to a state of balance."

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