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COVID-19. Coronavirus. Pandemic. Social Distancing. Quarantine.
What do you notice as you read these words right now? For me, I notice a tightness in my shoulders (and not just because I haven’t had the best posture working from home lately!). I also notice that I feel the need to take a deeper breath. My thoughts and fears about the virus start racing through my mind, and at the same time, I notice myself feeling frustrated about all the chaos and change.
If I had to take a wild guess, I bet you are probably getting pretty tired of hearing these words and pretty tired of talking about COVID-19. And I get it. These words are everywhere right now – it’s hard to escape them. The Coronavirus itself is not only unfortunately spreading between humans – it is spreading into our conversations, our workplaces, our phones, our social media feeds, our inboxes, our TV’s, our homes, and most definitely into our thoughts. During this unprecedented time, you, like many of us, might find yourself navigating higher levels of anxiety than you have before. Dealing with all of this uncertainty right now is difficult for all of us. Our brains are wired to create structure, look for patterns, and are often more comfortable with a sense of order, yet we know there are many things that are not in our control right now.
However, one of the things we DO have control over is being more mindful of the types of messages and words we are repeating to ourselves. Our thoughts have a lot of power over us and directly impact how we feel. It may seem like our thoughts are largely out of our control, but we actually have more power than we think! What am I getting at here? Positive affirmations. During times of transition, uncertainty, stress, or change, (which, let’s be honest, we have a lot of right now), positive affirmations can offer us powerful support and help us feel more at ease.
What is an Affirmation?
An affirmation is really anything we say or think. As Louise Hay explains: “Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation. All of our self-talk, our internal dialogue, is a stream of affirmations. You’re using affirmations every moment whether you know it or not. You’re affirming and creating your life experiences with every word and thought”. Whoah. Read that again.
By using positive affirmations, we create positive statements to repeat to ourselves in order to help shift our mindset. Think of it like this: when we “affirm” something, we are stating it to be true. Take a second to notice the types of thoughts you have had so far today. This might be difficult to do at first – this is normal. Take your time. Have your thoughts been helpful or harmful? Accurate or fear-driven?
Many of our thinking patterns can be more negative than we realize – especially during increased times of stress – this is also normal. The thing is, our thinking patterns directly impact our moods, primarily because we tend to believe our thoughts to be true. Practicing positive affirmations helps us consciously choose words that shift our thinking patterns to be more positive, which in turn offers several benefits. What are these benefits you ask?
Positive affirmations are known to help us shift negative thinking patterns and can help us overcome behaviors we would like to change. They are also proven to lower our stress levels, decrease our anxiety, improve our focus and concentration, improve our confidence, and help us feel more in control of our well-being. Who else could use a heavy dose of some of that right now? I know I could! These are all things we collectively need as we navigate new territory during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, let’s talk about how to practice putting this into action.
Practicing Positive Affirmations
Begin by thinking about a positive message that you might need to hear. It can be helpful to think of a negative thought you often have about yourself or about a situation. Now, try to imagine the opposite of that thought and put it into a sentence. I have included some examples below to help you get started. Feel free to pick a few of these that you connect with or create your own! The key is to repeat your personal affirmation(s) to yourself a few times each day to keep them present in your mind.
You can write them in a journal, write them on your bathroom mirror, write them on a post-it note, write them on your hand, make them the background on your phone, say them out loud to yourself, say them out loud to your pet, send them to your friend – the options are endless. Whatever it is you do, make it work for you and make sure you receive the messages multiple times a day to reap the benefits. Now, repeat this affirmation after me: “I can do this”.
I believe in my ability to get through tough times.
I will not stress over things I cannot control.
The feelings in my body are normal and I fully accept them.
I have everything I need within me.
I am a loving human being.
It’s ok that yesterday felt like a hard day.
I am worthy of good things.
I have an inner sense of calm.
My life is full of love.
I can cultivate the life experiences I want.
I will be present and calm today.
All of my feelings are ok.
I get angry sometimes, but I am full of love.
I can take things one day, or one hour, at a time.
When I go with the flow, my life is easy and filled with joy.
I appreciate my life and find things to be grateful for.
I have been through hard things before and have survived them.
This will not break me.
I let go of what I can’t change and do my best with what I can.
I am going to focus on things I love to get me through this.
This is hard, and I can do hard things.
I am allowed to express pain.
I have the ability to overcome anxiety.
A Note on Positivity
Positive Affirmations are different from “Toxic Positivity”. Toxic Positivity tells us that we are not allowed to feel all of our feelings – it tells us that feeling negative feelings is a bad thing. This is not the case. It is incredibly important, and encouraged, for us to allow ourselves to feel all that is coming up for us right now. Positive affirmations are there to help us cope with all of these feelings and to prevent us from getting stuck in a rough mental place. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us or another therapist if you find yourself needing additional support at a time like this. You are not alone, and we are here for you. We will get through this together.
Kristen Suleman, M.Ed., LPC is a therapist based in Houston, TX. She has experience working with individuals of all ages; however, she specializes in working with younger adults struggling with issues relating to self-worth, perfectionism, life balance, and identity. Kristen enjoys empowering her fellow humans by helping others learn how to show up for themselves and make the most out of this whole life thing.