Anxiety is without a doubt one of the most common issues I get questions about on Dr. Allison, and it is also one of the primary reasons clients come to see me in private practice. Fear, doubt, and worry are a normal part of life, yet for many people, these emotions can cross a line and become overwhelming and in many cases, paralyzing. The “what ifs,” the worst-case scenarios, and the catastrophic predictions begin to rule our thoughts, convincing us they are real, accurate, and happening now. And while many of our anxious thoughts have some roots of truth, meaning they could happen, the likelihood of them happening is often much less than our anxiety wants us to believe.
I’ve written a post on the importance of infusing logic and rational thought when we are anxious, and if you haven’t read that post, I highly recommend it. (You can find it here.) This post is an extension of sorts of that post, providing you realistic and tangible statements to use in moments of increased fear and anxiety. These statements are short and simple, yet profound in terms of challenging the “what ifs” and worst-case fears. These statements strike a balance between recognizing the impact your anxiety can create, while gently challenging the catastrophic tone that your anxiety feeds on.
Here is an important point before you jump ahead. These statements won’t feel totally believable when you first say them. They might feel fluffy or unrealistic at first, and that is okay and totally expected. Remember, we are trying to infuse logic and rational thought when anxiety wants to run the show, so a little bit of “fake it till you make it” is needed. Just like a partner, friend, or child may not fully believe you when they are swimming in self-doubt, the idea is that if they hear affirming and encouraging messages enough, they will start to believe them. These coping statements work the same way.
Slowly read through each statement in the list below. Take time to focus on each word in the sentence, soaking up the message, and taking in the gentle challenge to your anxiety.
This is temporary.
My fears are not reality.
This anxiety isn’t comfortable or enjoyable, but I can tolerate it.
I’ve felt this way before, and I’ve made it through.
While this is difficult, I don’t have to let it consume me.
I can work to think differently.
I’m going to ride this out until my anxiety decreases.
This isn’t a crisis; it is okay for me to take time to think through this.
I can move forward even when I feel anxious.
This is difficult, yet I can cope with it.
My thoughts are not the truth.
I don’t have to figure it all out now; I can take a small step forward.
Now reread the list again, this time selecting three to five of your favorite coping statements, statements you think could be helpful in combating your anxiety. Everyone responds differently to these coping statements. What works for you may be different than what works for someone else.
After you have your go-to coping statements, write them down somewhere fairly accessible so that you can reference them in moments of fear and anxiety. Most people tend to have their phones on them frequently, so I encourage many clients to create a “note” in their phone with their personalized coping statements. Maybe you can write them in a section of your day planner or on a sticky note at your desk. I have also created a PDF at the bottom of this post for those of you that are interested in printing this list of coping statements for easy access. Underline, highlight, or circle your favorites. Stick a copy on the refrigerator or on the inside of the pantry door. Fold up a copy for your purse or glove compartment. Having these statements close by and easily available in moments of anxiety is key, as it will take some time for these coping statements to sink in and become a habit.
For those of you wondering if these statements really make a difference, yes they do. Are they difficult to believe at first? Yes. Do they take practice implementing in moments of fear? Yes. Do they require some energy and effort to use? Yes. With practice, they can totally make a difference. I know because I use them each and every day in my own life, making fear, doubt, and anxiety much more manageable.
So what’s your favorite coping statement on the list? What statements are you vowing to implement and practice this week? Leave me a note in the comments below; I’d love to hear!