You can call them affirmations or you can call them mantras. A bit too woo-woo for you? Then just think of these sayings as quick reminders when you start to feel under pressure, or your stress is threatening to escalate.
Repeating something to yourself can be a very powerful tool. The repetition and the focus you bring to it provides an anchor for your mind, and the more you assert something, the more you start to inherently believe it.
Here are some of my favourites, ones that I use on a regular basis:
It is what it is.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I said this one. It is my number one go-to. Despite how it sounds, it doesn’t imply a helplessness or giving up. On the contrary, it can be very empowering, because it helps you separate what you can control from what you can’t. You can only work with what is in front of you right here, right now, and you can’t change what has happened to bring you to this moment.
Why do I like it so much? It’s an instant de-stressor for me. Think about it. You have three exams or three deadlines this week. It is what it is. No sense complaining or making it into something bigger. No sense feeling sorry for yourself or wishing things were different. Instead you face it head on, and make a plan. Try it the next time something happens. Saying “it is what it is” means you don’t waste time blaming someone, or playing the victim, or turning it into any one of the million stories we spin when something stressful happens. Instead, you simply look at the situation exactly as it is. Then you move forward from there.
I am not my [fill in the blank].
I first read this one about 30 years ago in a book called The Tao of Peace by Diane Dreher. The author said things like “I have a family but I am not my family.” I found this idea of detachment to be very powerful. The word “detachment” has a bad rap because it seems to imply a cold-heartedness or a sense of uncaring. But nothing could be further from the truth.
When you’re able to step back and realize that whatever happens around you does not have to affect you, then you are unstoppable. So, for instance, if your job is full of stress or you are not getting the recognition you feel your deserve, you can take a deep breath and whisper “I am not my job”. In other words, this job does not define me or determine my self-worth. I have a job, but I also have a life that is separate from this job.
We often get caught up in our relationships, or causes, or careers, and we start to identify with them. So when something stressful happens, we are pulled completely off center. Reminding yourself that you are more than the roles that you play helps to put that stressful situation in perspective.
Just let it go.
There’s an amazing poem by Safir Rose, called She Let Go. You need to click the link and check it out right now… It’s ok, I’ll wait….
We hold on to so much for such a long time — things, emotions, memories, judgments, limiting beliefs. We pull them out and examine them over and over. Ruminating over why we behaved in a certain way, or let others get away with things. We carry the weight of the past on our shoulders and for what? To justify our current thoughts and behavior?
What if we just let it all go? Yes, it’s that simple. What if we decided to forgive? What if we applauded ourselves for learning from past experiences and moved on? Does it need a whole story? Do we have to announce things? Or can we just quietly let go of all those things that are causing us so much grief?
What can you let go of?
It all will get done.
This affirmation was offered up by the brilliant Lou Redmond, during a meditation I listened to on Insight Timer. He spoke about that feeling we get when we are completely overwhelmed. Surely we can all think back to a time in the past when we felt that way. Perhaps we had multiple school papers to hand in, or several projects at work. Maybe our kids had back-to-back sports practices in three different locations. Think about it. Did you get through it?
Perhaps it wasn’t perfect, or you had to spread yourself more thinly than you would have liked. Perhaps you had to reach out for help. But it all got done. Or it didn’t all get done because you decided it could wait or it didn’t matter so much after all.
We underestimate our ability to get through things. We all have such hidden stores of resilience and we just need to learn to tap into them more freely. Again, we often build stories around our busyness. We wear it like a badge of honour.
Here’s a trick I discovered just last week. I had a ton of complicated forms to fill out for my son, and I had been stressed out about it for some time. I kept putting off completing them, and as a result I lay awake at night steeped in anxiety. One night as I lay there, I made a decision. I would specifically set aside Thursday night to get them all done. As soon as I did that, a huge weight lifted. I no longer had to worry about it that night or the next because Thursday was the night I was going to face that stress. It was incredibly liberating. It wasn’t so much that I made plan, it was that having that plan in place meant I no longer had to build a story around it.
The idea behind “it all will get done” is that if we can just step back from the worry, the fear, the anxiety, and all the narrative around what we have to do, we can see clearly what’s left. A task or an event that we need to attend to. That’s it. And once we see it’s simply that, it all will get done.
Does it matter?
I used this one a lot when my kids were younger. It’s similar to the old adages “pick your battles” or “don’t sweat the small stuff”. But when it’s framed as a question, it allows you to see much more clearly what is and isn’t important.
I used to base many of my parenting decisions on what everyone else was doing. So when my friends and I got together over coffee and they lamented the fact that their kids’ rooms were never clean, I would start to worry. My kids never made their beds. But I’ll let you in on a secret — I didn’t either! It wasn’t important to me. Not when there were bedroom doors that could be shut and more exciting things to do. So I really had to learn to be okay with things that really didn’t matter to me. Once I felt comfortable doing that, I felt so much more free.
The next time you’re stressed over the way you think things “should” be, ask yourself, “does it really matter?” The answer may surprise you. And if it doesn’t matter … you guessed it … let it go.
These sayings can be very powerful. But don’t take my word for it. Try them out for yourself. Digest them and see if any of them resound with you.
Print them out, post them somewhere, perhaps use them as journal prompts. Take some time to reflect on them and see where you could apply them to your life.
Just the simple act of repeating them in the moment or incorporating them into a yoga or meditation practice can go a long way towards building that inner resilience.
Let me know in the comments below if any of these have worked for you, or if you have your own favourite sayings!