Everybody gets stressed sometimes. Starting a new job, moving to a new place, getting everyone ready in your household in the morning, or even simply walking into a room full of people you’ve never met before can make your heart beat a little faster and your forehead sweat a little more. But what you don’t realize is that you already have the best possible tool for stress relief at your disposal: your voice. Yes, by uttering a few keywords and phrases, you can instantly calm down and unwind, making those worries fade away. Here are 17 of those magic words that’ll help you keep calm and carry on.
We all know that getting thanked is a huge mood-booster. But did you know that thanking someone else can have similar effects? According to a 2005 study published in the journal American Psychology, expressing gratitude can lead to an increased boost of happiness. In their research, Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and his team asked a group of participants to write and hand-deliver letters of gratitude to people from their past who had been especially kind to them but who they had never properly thanked. The study subjects assigned this task had a far happier attitude as a result, which lasted at least an entire month later. Yes, it might be hard to remember to show gratitude when you’re stressed, but a little “thank you” can go a long way—for everyone involved.
When you’re under the gun, it’s all too easy to be completely consumed by the problem at hand. That’s why it’s crucial to be able to look past the problem, and thankfully, there’s a one-word solution that can help you do just that: nevertheless. As Stanley Hibbs, Ph.D., told Psychology Today, “nevertheless” is a magic word that can help you kill stress at its core. If you follow your stressed-out thought with a positive one, separating the two with a “nevertheless” in-between, “it’s good for your health, your self-esteem, and can make you a more productive, better person,” Hibbs says.
3″I am lovable.”
Relationships can lead to joy and stress in equal measure. When dealing with a problem involving a loved one, reminding yourself that they love you and that you deserve their love is crucial. “As a person who has anxiety in her close relationships, something that is often helpful to repeat to me when anxiety starts to build are sayings like, ‘You are lovable and/or deserve love,'” Chantelle Doswell, a licensed counselor and a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of Social Work, told HuffPost. These phrases can help the problem seem more manageable and can help banish your stress in kind.
4″I am loving.”
Just as reminding yourself you are worthy of love helps calm you down, reminding yourself you are also capable of love helps fight everyday stress. “Sub out ‘loving’ for any word that you feel describes you when you’re being your best self. Now close your eyes and think about how it feels when you’re embodying that trait,” Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., writes in Stressaholic: 5 Steps to Transform Your Relationship with Stress. So the next time you wake up feeling stressed, take a couple of seconds and tell yourself what kind of person you want to be that day. It will take the focus away from how stressed you might be feeling.
Telling someone who’s stressed to “just calm down” is an exercise in futility—we all know that. However, when you’re telling yourself to calm down, it’s not nearly as useless. According to Doswell, telling yourself to calm down while also performing mindful breathing exercises can have a big impact on your stress levels. “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 told HuffPost.
6″ I’m excited.”
According to Alison Wood Brooks, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, there’s actually a completely different emotion that can combat stress besides the typical antonyms of calm and relaxation. In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Brooks found that participants who faced stressful tasks with excitement—rather than the relaxed attitude that’s generally prescribed—were far more likely to see a decrease in stress levels. So next time you’re feeling the walls close in, pump yourself up!
Unfortunately, not all the things that are causing you to stress are things you can control. But if you’re dealing with a task that is indeed something you can control, and it’s causing you a lot of stress, you might want to consider dropping it altogether.
“When we want to live a stress-free life, we have to choose ‘no,'” writes Darius Foroux, author of What It Takes to Be Free. “Saying blindly yes to invitations from our colleagues, friends, or family causes us stress. We often regret saying yes for days. We worry about damaging our relationships. We worry that we burn bridges. We worry what people would think if we say no. … By saying no you don’t miss anything. The world is filled with opportunity and beauty.”
8″This too shall pass.”
It sounds like too obvious of a solution for something like stress that can be all-encompassing, but reminding yourself that any given problem is just a passing storm is a surefire way to help get to the other side. Neglecting to look at the big, inevitable picture only exacerbates feelings of anxiety. “Remind yourself that this panic-filled moment won’t last forever,” Diane Sherry Case, a life and writing coach, told HuffPost. “Enter this mantra. Repeat ‘this too will pass’ in rhythm with your breath.”
9″It’s not about me.”
A speech, a performance, a presentation—any activity that involves getting in front of a crowd is bound to cause stress. But if you choose to focus on the importance of what you’re doing rather than how people might judge you for it, the stress will dissipate.
“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,” Joy Harden Bradford, the founder of Therapy for Black Girls, told HuffPost. “Reminding myself that it’s not about me, but more about who needs to hear what I have to say is incredibly helpful.”
10″All is well.”
Who doesn’t want someone to tell them that everything will be okay? The good news is, you needn’t find someone else to tell you—you can just do it yourself! Maryam Hasnaa, who leads workshops on spirituality and consciousness, told HuffPost she uses the phrase “all is well” religiously during her daily life. After all, it is a little harder to be stressed when you believe everything is going smoothly.
11″I respect you.”
Business relationships can become big sources of stress. But telling someone that you respect them in the workplace can end up going a long way in not only making that person happy, but also lowering your stress levels in the long run.
“Respect creates respect; the relationship grows. Conflicts that otherwise would create massive stress are transformed into problems you solve together,” Inc. reporter Geoffrey James wrote in an article for Business Insider. So, the next time a problem with a coworker or business partner has you feeling the pressure, try telling that coworker that you respect them and want to find a resolution together. You might be surprised by how fast the problem gets solved.
12″I forgive you.”
Holding onto grudges can lead to a lot of stress. But forgiveness, on the other hand? That can make your stress levels go down instantly. Actually, according to a 2019 study from the American Psychology Associates, letting go of hostility or resentment can lower your risk of heart attack, ease pain, improve your cholesterol levels, and reduce anxiety and depression. All of that just from telling someone, “I forgive you” and working on living up to that.
“It is an active process in which you make a conscious decision to let go of negative feelings whether the person deserves it or not,” Karen Swartz, MD, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, explained in an article for Johns Hopkins.
13″I am enough.”
Beating yourself up for not meeting your personal expectations is extremely detrimental, yet you probably do it all the time. So why not try to do the opposite next time and tell yourself that, yes, you are in fact enough? Repeat that phrase a couple of times and you’ll be ready to face your next challenge stress-free!
“Giving ourselves positive messages will combat negative self-talk,” writes Kathleen Hall, Ph.D., of the Mindful Living Network. “You can choose to do this simple practice to create prosperity, balance, and health in your life.”
14″I am in control.”
You may not believe it at the time, but try repeating this positive affirmation to yourself. “Research at the University of California tells us that individuals who repeat an affirmation when they experience fear or stress have lower cortisol levels,” writes Hall. “Cortisol is the stress hormone that causes our bodies to have a fight-or-flight response in a time of fear.” So the less of that, the better!
15″I am stressed.”
This phrase may sound silly, but hear us out. Society naturally conditions people to bottle up their negative feelings. And yet, expressing those negative feelings is step one when it comes to resolving them. According to a 2014 study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, participants who shared feelings of stress with others before giving a speech ended up experiencing a decrease in stress. So the next time you’re stressed, acknowledge what you’re feeling. It might just make all the difference. And for more ways to minimize your stress,