Stress is everywhere these days. 

  • You’re trying to stay afloat economically. 
  • You’re concerned for the safety of your loved ones. 
  • Some days just seem doomed from the start no matter the effort. 

This toll on your body and mind diminishes your sense of hope and peace, until you find yourself grasping to the idea that the best you can hope for is to find rest some day in the future, because it sure doesn’t seem reachable today.

What’s happening in your brain and body?

Thankfully, this is a pattern you can break. Our brains are wired to fall into the same paths each day. If those paths gravitate towards stressful or depressive thoughts, then those are the directions our minds want to keep taking. 

Imagine sledding in the snow. The first few times you take a path down a hill, it’s a little slow, a little difficult. But the more you take the same path, the snow gets worn down, solid, and lightning fast. This is what’s happening in your brain every time stress or depression try to have their way. This then has greater implications for your health.

  • Muscle tension.
  • Gastrointestinal issues.
  • Fatigue.
  • Insomnia.
  • Weight gain.
  • Extreme weight loss.

None of these things contribute to an experience of peace in your life. 

What can you do about it?

Stress and depression are usually accompanied by a small nagging voice that threatens your identity or safety. This lie about yourself can be identified with a negative “I am” statement. 

  • I’m unloved. 
  • I’m a failure. 
  • I’m not safe.

You get the point.

So FIRST I want you to take just a moment to quiet your mind, and ask your stress what negative message it’s trying to communicate to you today about yourself. 

NEXT, ask yourself what positive message you’d rather believe about yourself instead. What centering affirmation do you need to set to feel empowered for the rest of the day? These affirmations are meant to answer the negative message from above. Here are some examples.

  • I am loved.
  • I’m important. 
  • I do the best I can.

Choose the positive voice that speaks to that part of you that needs hope today. 

LASTLY, and this is key, remind yourself why this centering affirmation is true. When you say “I’m loved”, whose face comes to mind? When you say “I’m a success,” allow your mind to venture to the times you made something happen, instead of dwelling on the times you didn’t. When you tell yourself “I matter,” picture the reason you matter.

Why should you set a centering affirmation each morning?

These three steps: 1) asking what negative message stress or depression are trying to share, 2) asking what centering affirmation combats that negative message, and 3) reminding yourself why your centering affirmation is true, will take you about a minute once you get used to the practice. 

Returning to the sledding metaphor, your mind will continue to prefer its old paths for a while. As you practice this new preferred path, the path that leads to peace, what you’ll experience at first is a lot like dragging a sled down the stubborn fresh snow. The more days you choose the better path, the more solid it will become, the faster your brain will naturally make more positive connections. And before you know it, that old path won’t be so well-worn, and your brain will prefer to operate out of your centering affirmation.

Now that you’ve set your centering affirmation, you’ll want to come back to it occasionally throughout your day when the normal stresses of life show up, as they always do. Just a simple deep breath will do, inhale the centering affirmation, exhale the stress, and move on with your day. 

Taking the next step

Sometimes, you’ll find stress seems beyond what you can manage. Maybe you poured your heart out to a trusted companion and you still feel awful. Or maybe the negative thoughts seem too numerous to count. If you need to discuss therapy as a potential option for you, contact us for a free consultation to discuss your best options. We’re more than happy to help you get set up with the right person. I help with anxiety, healing from trauma, and connectedness in relationships. And together with my colleagues we can help you make sense of any number of other concerns. 

Be free to live again.

Now go and walk in your centering affirmation for the rest of the day. Let this be the voice that sets the background music of your life. And send a clear message to your stress and depression that they don’t get to call the shots anymore. 

Gavin Cross, AMFT
Gavin Cross, AMFT

I help people make sense of their past to find hope for their future.