Anxiety is universal. The American Psychological Association defines the feeling as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” And most people experience it in their lives at one point or another.
It’s so common that many people may view it as just a normal part of life, ignoring it rather than addressing it before it gets worse. But that’s a major problem: If left untreated, anxiety can be crippling. It can lead to lightheadedness, nausea, headaches, stomach pains, panic attacks and more, all of which can make it impossible to carry out even simple tasks.
Luckily, there are several ways to combat overwhelming feelings of anxiety in the moment. Therapy, medication or a combination of the two are vital if anxiety is inhibiting your daily life. And for a quick fix, experts say relaxation techniques like mantras can help.
Using mantras while dealing with anxiety can create a calming effect, said Chantelle Doswell, a licensed counselor and lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Social Work.
“Mantras can be helpful for folks with anxiety in two ways: They can focus the mind, and they can provide counter-narratives to anxiety-provoking automatic thoughts,” Doswell said.
The technique can be so effective that therapists and wellness experts even rely on mantras themselves in addition to recommending them to their patients and clients. HuffPost consulted a few to find out their go-to coping mantras when anxiety pops up.
Use one of these to make it through a tough situation and return to a state of calm the next time your mind gets stuck on anxiety:
1. “I am…”
Try starting a phrase with “I am” and fill it with an adjective of your choosing. Bri Luna, founder and creator of The Hoodwitch and a spiritual wellness expert, said she prefers using the affirmations “I am patience,” “I am compassion,” “I am wisdom,” “I am love,” “I am selfless” and so on.
“I have found that these very short one-line affirmations are ones that will produce the desired [effect] as they are repeated slowly and as a set of three,” she said.
Katiuscia Gray, a licensed clinical social worker based in New York, said she also recommends an “I am” phrase during an anxious period, typically opting for “I am at peace” or something to remind you that you’re not actually in danger.
2. “This too shall pass.”
“Often, when in the throes of anxiety, we feel as if it will last forever and that makes us panic more,” said Diane Sherry Case, a life coach and writing coach who teaches licensed therapists how to incorporate writing into their practice.
That’s why it’s important to remind yourself that this panic-filled moment won’t last forever. Enter this mantra.
“Repeat ‘this too will pass’ in rhythm with your breath,” Case said.
3. “I am powerful and I deserve every power-filled thing.”
Tailor your affirmation based on what you need in the moment. “Depending on the client, I have changed the words: “I am _____, and I deserve every _____ thing,” said Markisha Bennett, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C.
So, for example, it might be “I am beautiful and I deserve every beauty-filled thing,” or “I am strong and I deserve every strength-filled thing.”
4. “It’s not about you.”
This mantra may help in times where you’re anxious over what other people might think about a presentation or something you’re doing, said Joy Harden Bradford, a psychologist based in Atlanta and founder of Therapy for Black Girls.
“Sometimes I get anxious about a new podcast episode or a video I’ll be releasing because I’m worried about what the reception will be. … Reminding myself that it’s not about me, but more about who needs to hear what I have to say, is incredibly helpful,” Bradford said.
5. “All is well.”
Sometimes you just need a little reminder (that you repeat several times) that things are going to be OK.
“The mantras that I use daily are in Arabic,” said Maryam Hasnaa, who leads workshops and online courses on spirituality and consciousness. “In my tradition, we chant certain words from Scripture. Other than that, the mantra that I say religiously and automatically is ‘all is well.’”
6. “Thank you.”
Case also recommended acknowledging the good things in your life during a moment of anxiety by repeating “thank you.”
“Turning your mind away from your worries and directing it toward gratitude will put you on more solid ground,” she said.
7. “Calm down.”
Telling a person with anxiety to “calm down” is ineffective, but repeating it to yourself with deep breathing exercises may be useful.
“Breathing out to counts of four to C-A-L-M [on the in breath] and D-O-W-N [on the out breath] is my go-to for physical anxiety,” Doswell said.
8. “You are lovable.”
This is especially important if you’re feeling stressed or panicked over a loved one, Doswell said.
“For example, as a person who has anxiety in her close relationships, something that is often helpful to repeat to myself when anxiety starts to build are sayings like ‘you are lovable and/or deserve love’ or ‘this likely isn’t about you ― be patient, be curious,’” she said.
9. “What can I see and experience today that will thrill and amaze me?”
Refocus by thinking about something positive rather than negative.
“I literally will repeat this question to myself several times over and over again,” said Brandi L. Bates, author and host of “Power Podcasts,” which focuses on mindfulness and positivity. “If I’m having an extra-tough day, I get specific: What else can I see? What else can I read, taste, touch, smell and feel today that will thrill and amaze me? What will make this the greatest day of my life?”