When I was first suffering from Postnatal Depression and Anxiety following Caterpillar’s birth in 2013 the most terrifying, paralyzing thought was that I would never get better and I would never find my way back from this complete breakdown to the life I had and person I was before. I was constantly searching for proof that I would recover and, of course, there is none as nothing is guaranteed.
When you’re unwell you’re in such a haze that it is almost impossible to feel any positivity, especially when the Anxiety symptoms completely dominate your day. It’s hard to feel anything besides fear and panic. Once I had seen the Occupational Therapist and started medication I began to experience windows of relief and although they gave me some hope I still didn’t full confident in my recovery.
It was during this time one of my friends mentioned using affirmations for positivity. Frankly, before this experience I’d lumped affirmations in with meditation as “hippy rubbish” and couldn’t really see how listening to or repeating particular phrases was going to make any difference to how I felt. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. The biggest lesson I’ve taken away from mental health recovery is that our minds are incredibly powerful. Through our thoughts we have the power to control our emotions, and using words and affirmations is a great way to encourage more positive thoughts. You can quite literally talk yourself into feeling better.
I’ve listed below some of my favourite positive affirmations – some of which I wrote and others which I found online. When I was very unwell I would print these out and tape them up around my house or regularly write or recite them. You’ll be surprised at the comfort they can bring, even if you don’t fully believe what you’re saying at the beginning.
1. Don’t run, don’t fight. Go towards Anxiety, sit with it, then watch it go.
This is the affirmation I use most often during spells of Anxiety because it captures my personal method in a really simple way. Resisting the thoughts and feelings Anxiety brings only makes those unpleasant symptoms stronger. Inviting Anxiety in instead, reduces it’s power. Find out more about this method here.
2. You control your thoughts, therefore you control how you feel. You have the power to heal yourself.
I find this to be particularly empowering when I’m really struggling. Anxiety can feel like it has complete control over us and we are nothing but victims of it, but once we realise that actually our emotions are simply a result of certain thoughts and that we can change how we think we take some control back. Find out more about positive thinking here or confidence and self-belief here.
3. You are not a failure, you didn’t do anything wrong, you haven’t let anyone down.
Anxiety just loves to beat us up and make us feel useless, worthless or helpless. This affirmation can be one of the hardest to believe but that just makes it all the more important to keep repeating. Practicing self-kindness is one of the most important things we can do during recovery. Find out more about it from this video.
4. You are still living, even with these fears and anxious thoughts. You are still able to enjoy things. You can live alongside this feeling for now.
One of my biggest triggers when I was first unwell in 2013 was thinking that I wasn’t living while I had Anxiety, that life was pointless because I felt awful for really large chunks of time. That life wasn’t worth living. This led to lots of really scary suicidal ideation. One of the biggest lessons I learnt during recovery is that you are still having a life even during the time you’re slowly getting better. Every time you get a tiny window of relief or enjoy even the smallest thing that has made life worthwhile and that helps you to realise that you’re able to live with Anxiety for now, that it won’t last forever but that there are still positive things to take from life even during your struggle.
5. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
This is basically the Anxiety mantra for anyone following the “let it in” method. In order to reduce the uncomfortable, fightening feelings and symptoms that Anxiety brings you have to learn to live alongside them, to let them operate in the background and to not let them stop you from doing anything. Find out more about the method of Anxiety management that I use from this video.
6. You are not Anxiety. Anxiety does not define you. It is only extra adrenaline and you are managing it.
Getting Anxiety into perspective is really important. It can feel completely consuming when you’re in the midst of it but when you strip it back to what it actually is – extra adrenaline and unhelpful thinking patterns – it can feel a lot more manageable.
7. You will recover and you will be stronger than ever when you do.
Again, this is hard to believe but that’s the point of an affirmation – if you keep saying the words eventually you will begin to believe them. And please take it from my experience, and the experiences of many other survivors I know, you do end up stronger after recovery because you have learnt so much, and what you have learnt will help to protect you in the future. For more on this please read Ten Things I Have Gained From PND and There’s Always Something New To Learn About Anxiety.
8. There is no need to fixate on the past or worry about the future. Nothing else exists except right now.
9. Find joy in the journey, not the destination.
This was the original tagline for this blog because I feel it’s a really important lesson that I learned quite early on during recovery. I believe that unrealistic expectations of parenthood were one of the initial causes of my PND and subsequent Anxiety. I was obsessed with reaching a certain destination in life and on some level thought life would be perfect when I did. When the reality of being a new mum hit me it was very different to what I was expecting and I panicked, eventually triggering a breakdown. Realising that there are dozens of small moments of joy in every day, rather than working towards one big goal, has helped me a great deal.
10. Don’t dwell, just do.
Finally, this really simple affirmation got me through some very bad days during my initial illness. After spending several hours battling panic attacks alone in my house I found myself scrawling these words down in my chaotic notebook. I realised that sitting still, or rather allowing myself to be frozen by fear, wasn’t helping me at all. So I forced myself to get up and start getting on with a task. Doing anything when you’re feeling that awful is very, very difficult but I honestly believe that attempting to do something – even if it initially makes you feel more scared and uncomfortable – is the only way to truly begin recovering.
I have created a free printable version of all the above affirmations so you can cut them out and stick them around your house as reminders. As I said, I do this and find it a really useful tool. Get yours below.