It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of self-talk, especially when it comes to anxiety. Talking yourself through a stressful moment is absolutely key if you want to reduce your anxiety. But about 90% of people are making a huge mistake in this process. So today, I’m sharing the mistake you’re probably making and the single word that can dramatically reduce your anxiety. Click, watch, and learn!
First, let’s start with a hypothetical situation. Say you’re super anxious about an upcoming presentation. You hate talking in front of people, you’re not feeling confident, and you’re worried how people will respond. Your self-doubt is creeping up, and your anxiety is telling you that you can’t do it. Now let’s pretend you and I are sitting together, talking about your anxiety. Which one of these two responses from me would you find more helpful? Which response would help reduce your anxiety?
Option: A. “You’ll probably be fine.”
Option B: “It’s scary to be in front of so many people. It makes sense that you’re nervous, and you’ll probably be fine.”
Option A or B? Now let’s say you’re waiting on some scary test results. And your anxiety is predicting the worst. Which response from me would you find most comforting?
Option A. “Whatever happens, we’ll get through it.”
Option B. “It’s scary and nerve-wracking to wait, and whatever it is, we’ll get through it.”
Last, let’s pretend you’ve got to make a hard decision. Which response would most reduce your anxiety?
Option A: “You can do hard things.”
Option B: “This is tough, and you can do hard things.”
In all three of these situations, which statement, which response, did you find most comforting? Option A or option B?
Now, I’m not a psychic, but I’m guessing you chose option B. “It’s scary and you’ll probably be fine. This is scary, and whatever it is, you’ll get through it. This is tough, and you can do hard things.” All of the option B responses have something in common. Did you hear it?
All of these responses include the word “and.” It’s a simple word, just three little letters. But this word makes an enormous difference when it comes to anxiety.
When you’re trying to reduce your anxiety, it’s natural to want to tell yourself that it’ll be ok. That you’ll get through it. It’s natural to want to believe that things will work out. And in general, I’m a fan of all of these statements. But when you use them on their own, without first recognizing how you feel, they’re like a bad pep talk. They’re not enough. They don’t acknowledge what you’re feeling in the moment.
Noticing, naming, and validating your emotions, is crucial when managing your anxiety. Your brain won’t believe you if you jump straight to the encouragement part. It won’t believe the self-talk if you don’t first acknowledge the anxiety. You have to first recognize what you’re feeling, then you can offer some encouragement. (It’s the exact same formula we talked about for comforting others!)
So if you want to reduce your anxiety, you’ve got to use the word “and”. You’ve got to create self-talk statements that both recognize and validate how you’re feeling and also offer comfort and encouragement. “This is scary, and I can still move forward.” “I’m overwhelmed, and I just need to focus on one step at a time.”“This is hard, and I can do hard things.”
Do you hear the role of the word “and”? It joins the two parts of the sentence, creating more balanced and believable self-talk. And if you’ve been watching my videos for a while, you know how important that is. Positive self-talk isn’t the goal. Balanced, believable, and healthy self-talk is.
So when you’re anxious, trying to talk yourself through a difficult moment, lean on the word “and”. Acknowledge the fear, and offer comfort. Notice the anxiety, and encourage yourself. Name the panic, and remind yourself that you can still cope. By embracing the word “and”, by creating a two-part self-talk statement, you’re creating more believable self-talk. And this is critical if you want your brain to really believe what you’re saying. Does it take practice? Yep. Does it take some extra effort? Of course. Does it require a little bit of “fake it till you make it” action? Absolutely.
It’s tough, and I believe in you! (See what I did there!)
PS: Looking for a few helpful coping statements to get you through anxious moments? Here’s a printable list of my favorites.