1. Question your inner-critic.
- If you catch yourself worrying and or thinking negatively about yourself, ask yourself some questions. For example: “Is this thought kind to myself?” “Is this thought true?” “Would I say this to someone else?” The answers to these questions can often help reduce self-doubt.
- Change a negative thought to make it truer or kinder. For example, you might find yourself thinking: “I never get anything right.” Try to make this more truthful by thinking instead: “Sometimes I don’t get things right, but other times I do a really great job. It is ok that I can’t do everything, and I am proud of what I can do.”
- Remember—you may not have control over what pops into your mind, but you do have control over what you can focus on.
2. Focus on your strengths.
- For example, if you might find yourself thinking: “I don’t like not knowing what is going to happen. What if something terrible happens?” In this case, you can remind yourself of your strengths. You might say to yourself: “I do not like not knowing what will happen, but I do know that I have overcome unforeseeable events in the past. I trust my ability to handle whatever comes my way.”
- Acknowledging what you value about yourself will remind you of your worth, which is essential to mental wellness. Valuing your strengths can remind you of how capable and competent you are.
- It is helpful to write down your thoughts about your strengths, or even start a journal. Here are some helpful prompts to get you started: What makes you feel strong? Is it something you do, or a certain environment? Describe what you feel in moments of strength. Confidence? Pride? List 5 qualities about yourself that are strengths. Which of these is the most important? Why?
3. Practice self-affirmation.
- Say what you like about yourself out loud in a mirror. Anytime you have a moment, you can do this short exercise. Doing it repeatedly will help build self-esteem.
- An example of an affirmation would be: “I love what a great friend I am, and I am proud of how I treat my friends.”
- Another example could be: “I love that my hair is curly because it is different. I’m glad I am embracing my hair today.”
- Studies show that self-affirmation can also help relieve stress and promote creative thinking in stressful situations.
Coping with Stress
1. Practice mindful meditation.
- You can meditate for as little as 30 minutes per day. Even this amount produces beneficial changes in behavior and brain function. Mindfulness decreases emotional reactivity, anxiety, and depression.
- Start by finding a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Sit comfortably and pay attention to your thoughts. Let your thoughts pass through your mind, coming and going from your awareness.
- Focus all of your attention on the present moment and pay close attention to your breathing. Take note of what you see, hear, and feel. Notice where in your body you are holding tension. Acknowledge any thoughts, worries, or emotions that come up, and then let them go.
- If your mind starts to wander, or you start to dwell on worries, refocus your attention on your breathing.
2. Exercise your body.
- Exercise and physical activity can bring relief to tense muscles.
- Exercise also causes the body to release endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that make you feel good and inhibit your body’s stress response. They also help to improve your mood and help you feel calmer.
- Try different activities to find one you enjoy. Good activities are yoga, walking, dancing, and sports that help get your heart pumping.
- When you are feeling stressed, it may be tempting to skip exercise because it is one more thing you have to do. However, the benefits will be clear in the long run.
3. Eat well.
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol. Too much of either of these substances can promote anxiety. More than one or two alcoholic beverages per day can make it harder to cope with stress.
- Make mealtimes a calm, relaxed experience. Don’t rush your eating.
- Don’t overeat. Avoid using food as a way to cope with stress.
- Some foods contain nutrients that help your body manage stress. Specifically, avocados, bananas, tea, whole grains, fatty fish, carrots, nuts, yogurt, and chocolate are all thought to help manage stress.
- There’s actually an increasing number of links between someone’s physical illnesses to their mental health, such as migraines, IBS, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Your physical health and emotional well-being are all linked together!