Talk Yourself Out of Stress

By Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

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Positive self-talk can and does work when practiced on a regular basis. You may be surprised if you knew what some of the most successful people you know were thinking. Of course, we don’t know their exact thoughts are but we can guess that they have learned how to manage the negative thoughts that come up.  Here are some ways that you can teach yourself to feel less stressed.

The Reality

“If you want to change your life, begin by changing your words. Start speaking the words of your dreams, of who you want to become, not the words of fear and failure.” -Robert Kiyosaki

Often the person who beats you up the most and denigrates you is YOU. Others might use words that can be heard, but your mind is more insidious than that. At every turn, there are those dark thoughts just waiting to spring into action when you decide to try something new or experience an obstacle. There is a quote that says, “Beware of how you talk to yourself because you are listening.”-Unknown

What do these thoughts do to you? Things like:

“You’ll never be able to handle a new position at work.”

“You are not smart enough or pretty enough to be noticed.”

“You are kidding yourself if you think that you can get a loan.”

“See, I told you so. This setback is a sign of more bad things to come.”

Have you ever heard this tape playing in your head? Don’t scoff. It’s a force to be reckoned with. Self-talk could be the difference between remaining on an even keel and experiencing total meltdown.


The Solution

“Be kind to yourself. It’s hard to be happy when someone’s being mean to you all the time.”


How can you turn potentially stressful situations into manageable occurrences? It all begins with reprogramming the tape in your head. Instead of spewing negative thoughts, reprogram it to speak positive and realistic affirmations at every turn.


“The words you speak become the house you live in.” -Hafiz

Positive self-talk is not about telling yourself that everything is rainbows and unicorns. It is about tapping into the channel of realism where you can consider better solutions instead of automatically thinking of the worst possible outcomes. For instance, a setback is usually not fatal. There are solutions at your disposal but that fact is hard to come by if your mind is constantly filled with harsh and unfounded thoughts. As Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.”


Read the following tips to assist with reducing your stress levels.

* Check the facts – When your brain tells you that you can’t do something, ask it why not. Run through the actual facts of the situation at hand. Discard assumptions so only what is truly real remains. Turn your negative phrases into, “Wouldn’t it be nice if….” along with your ideal positive outcomes.


* Keep a gratitude journal – If you are in the depths of despair, it may be hard to see the positive.  Challenge yourself to find at least 3 things that you appreciated about your day even if they seem small at first. Refer back to your journal on days that are difficult because what you tell yourself either lifts you up or brings you down and you can reread your journal to fuel your positive mindset. As William James said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”


* Find positive individuals – Those who are successful and proactive often associate with like-minded people. Bring yourself upward by finding other upwardly mobile people.


* Make a change – The company you keep or the image you project could be fueling your stress. Choose a new wardrobe with clothing that reflects a happier and more confident self-image. Replace negative people with more positive ones. They will help lift you up even when times are tough.  


It is possible to speak life and truth and peace into your life. Carl Jung said, “I am not what has happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” Speak words and think thoughts that reflect who you want to become.