Anxiety attacks are moments of intense anxiety that are seemingly impossible to control. Your mind races with negative thoughts - many of them health related, although not always - and you can't help but feel as though something terrible is about to happen. Anxiety attacks can be so draining that they can actually cause temporary depression.
Once you're having an anxiety attack they can become very hard to control. But some people find that the best thing they can do is known as "positive self-talk," which is when you use the power of your words to overcome your anxiety.
How Self Talk Works
Self-talk is not an anxiety cure or prevention strategy.
Positive self-talk is beneficial because for reasons that are not quite clear scientifically, your mind tends to adapt to the words you say. It sounds almost nonsensical - and it actually takes quite a bit of practice - but for some reason when you say positive things to yourself long enough, those things start to become a reality.
Self-talk also has the added benefit of simply being distracting without negative consequence. One of the best ways to eventually stop and cure anxiety is simply distraction. The less you're able to focus on negative, anxiety fueling thoughts, the more they seem to go away.
Types of Self-Talk
There is actually more than one kind of self-talk, and more than one way to perform that self-talk. The key is to make sure that you're always positive (genuinely - not passive aggressive) and that you're saying things to yourself that represent the way you want to feel. Types include:
This is perhaps the most common type of anxiety-self talk there is. Affirmations are positive phrases that represent the control you want to have over yourself. For example:
- "I am not controlled by my anxiety."
- "I am better than my anxiety."
- "Nothing is wrong with me. I have anxiety, and that's okay."
There are literally thousands of affirmations, because there's no such thing as a bad affirmation. It simply has to be something that you're determined to believe and feel, even when anxiety tells you something else. It needs to be positive, uplifting, and you need to be proud to say it.
The greatest issue standing in the way of affirmations is embarrassment. We live in a pretty cynical world, and people don't like the idea of talking to themselves and saying positive statements that go against how they feel in an effort to find relief from their anxiety. Because of that, affirmations rarely work right away, because as you're saying them at first, you're often letting the voice in the back of your head tell you that what you're doing is silly.
But if you can commit to them and keep at them, eventually it will start to feel more normal, and you may find that these affirmations provide you with some much needed relief.
Some people decide to take it a bit further. Rather than repeat phrases to themselves, they instead want talk to themselves and remind themselves about amazing experiences they have or happy moments they want to remember. This type of focus - where you think about things other than your anxiety and stress - can be very powerful for overcoming your anxiety attack issues, and may overwhelm your mind in a positive way with good feelings so that the negative feelings don't control you.
Not all positive self-talk is in the form of happy phrases or even happy stories. Some are simply a type of problem solving that you love to do.
For example, if you're someone that loves to solve math problems (and doesn't everyone love to solve math problems?) then perhaps you'd like to create math problems in your head and try to solve them. Or maybe you're someone that likes poetry. Perhaps you can try to remember poetry and say it to yourself.
Remember, anything that distracts your brain is a positive. It's not just the positive principles of self-talk that are important, or the way you feel (though those both play a role) - it's also about simply making sure you're finding some way to put your mind on something else.
Using Self Talk Strategies
Talking to yourself always seems unnatural at first. But your biggest supporter is you, and your brain is designed specifically to try to adapt to reduce stress and make you happier. So consider using these self-talk strategies to start making a real difference in the way you see your anxiety and how you adapt to it. You may find that it's just what you need to make your anxiety attacks weaker, and overcome them easier.