Negative self-talk doesn’t help. You can try to thought-stop but unless you’ve got a ready replacement, it probably won’t work (the mind’s not so good at staying quiet).
That’s why preparing coping statements and writing them onto coping cards that you carry with you makes sense.
Whenever negative self-talk gets you down, pull out your coping card and read your positive affirmations until you feel better.
It sounds too simple to work, but it does work, and since it’s so simple, you can make your own cards right now.
What Are Coping Statements?
Coping statements are truthful positive statements used to replace the negative and untrue thoughts that take-over when you feel anxious, stressed, angry and/or when facing other overwhelming situations.
- Replace, "I can't take it anymore." With, "This is uncomfortable, but I can handle it if I take slow and deep breaths."
Verbalizing your coping statements can help you calm down and stay in control. They offer reassurance that you can make it through any difficult period.
An example coping statement that a person with panic might use is:
- “I am safe and this will pass. I have survived this before. I am just going to let this pass through my body.”
Writing a Coping Card
It’s all well and good to write out coping statements – but who can remember to use them, or even remember them at all – in the heat of the moment?!!
- Because it is difficult to remember your coping statements once you start feeling overwhelmed, it is helpful to write out a number of statements on a small card that you can carry around easily in your wallet at all times.
With this card on your person at all times, you can pull it out and read the statements to yourself whenever you need to – no memory required.
You may want to write out different cards for different situations that provoke anxiety, or panic, or urges to drink – or whatever you struggle with. The cards work best when filled with statements that are specifically applicable to you and to the situations you face.
Tips for Writing/Using Effective Coping Statements
According to social anxiety specialist, Dr. Barbara Markway, Ph.D., to get the most out of coping statements, make sure to:
- Write the statements in your own words – not in language you wouldn’t use or don’t feel comfortable with (avoid formal or academic language.)
- Write statements that specifically target your problem – if you have anxiety about incontinence, write specifically about that.
- Write statements that are reassuring, but also realistic and truthful. If you struggle with pain, repeating, “I don’t feel pain” probably won’t help (you won't fool yourself.) A more accurate and thus more useful statement, might be, “This pain won’t last forever.”
- Keep statements brief and easy to memorize – so you won’t have trouble remembering and repeating your statement when feeling overwhelmed (when you need them most.)1
How to Use Your Coping Statements
Use your statements whenever you feel anxiety, panic, feelings of being overwhelmed, etc., coming on.
If using your statements to preempt negative thoughts in a crisis situation:
- Read them out loud (if possible) and repeat them until you start to feel better.
- If one statement in particular helps calm you most, just continue to repeat that statement to yourself – like a mantra.
- Try to breathe slowly and deeply – into your diaphragm – as you read your statements.
Example Coping Statements
Need a little inspiration before getting started with writing your own coping statements?
Well then, review the following example coping statements, and get some good ideas for own unique and personalized coping cards.
Coping Statements for Anxiety
- Fighting this doesn’t help – so I’ll just relax and breathe deeply and let it float away.
- This feeling isn’t comfortable, but I can handle it.
- By relaxing through these feelings I learn to face my fears.
- I can feel anxious and still deal with this situation.
- This is not a real emergency. I can slow down and think about what I need to do.
- This feeling will go away.2
- By staying present and focused on my task my anxiety will decrease.
- These are just thoughts – not reality.
- Anxiety won’t hurt me.
- Feeling tense is natural. It tells me it’s time to use coping strategies.
- Things are not as bad I am making them out to be.
- Don’t discount the positives.3
Coping Statements for Fear - Preparing for Stress/Anxiety
Overwhelming anxiety and stress is not only unpleasant; it can also reduce your performance (think test anxiety!) Coping statements can calm you down and keep you at your best.
Researchers at West Virginia University found that coping statement training helped speech-anxious subjects reduce their public speaking anxiety – and the effects lasted beyond the training period.4
- I’ve done this before so I can do it again.
- I’ll be glad I did it when this is over.5
- I’ll feel better when I am actually in the situation.
- I’ll just do the best I can.
- By facing my fears I can overcome them.
- Worry doesn’t help.
- Whatever happens, happens. I can handle it.
Coping Statements for Feeling Overwhelmed
- Stay focused on the present. What do I need to do right now?
- It will soon be over.
- It’s not the worst thing that could happen.
- Step by step until it’s over.
- I don’t need to eliminate stress, just keep it under control.
- Once I label my stress from 1 to 10 I can watch it go down.
- Take a breath.
Coping Statements for Phobias
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro found that coping statements helped subjects feel significantly less anxiety during hierarchical desensitization therapy (exposure therapy) and resulted in significant behavioral change (for the better.)6
- I can always retreat out of this situation if I decide to.
- There is nothing dangerous here.
- Take deep breaths and take your time.
- This feeling is just adrenaline. It will pass in a couple of minutes.
- These feelings are not dangerous.7
Coping Statements for Panic
- This isn’t dangerous.
- I will just let my body pass through this.
- I have survived panic attacks before and I will survive this as well.
- Nothing serious is going to happen.
- This will pass.8
Coping Statements for Pain Management
The way you look at pain makes a significant difference.
In one study, published in The Journal of Pain Research, subjects faced an experimental pain task that measured their ability to tolerate discomfort. Half the study subjects repeated negative ‘catastrophizing’ statements during the pain task and the other half repeated positive coping statements during the task.
Subjects verbalizing positive coping statements during the pain task endured extreme pain for more than twice as long as subjects verbalizing catastrophizing statements.9
So consider trying out one or more of the positive coping statements from the experiment, such as:
- I can control the pain.
- One step at a time - I can handle this.
- I need to stay focused on the positives.
- It won’t last much longer.
- This isn’t as bad as I thought.
- No matter how bad it gets, I can do it.
- It will be over soon.
And definitely avoid using any of the catastrophizing statements that halved pain endurance, such as:
- I can’t stand this anymore.
- This is overwhelming.
- I can’t control this pain.
- This is worse than I thought it would be.
- I feel like I can’t go on.
- This is terrible.
- This is never going to get better.
Coping Statements for Disordered Eating
- Food is fuel. Food is medicine. Food makes muscles.
- Don’t think, just eat.
- I am not my illness.
- Strong, healthy, smart.10
Coping Statements for Anger Management
- It’s not worth getting mad about.
- I won’t take this personally.
- I am in charge not my anger.
- I am going to breathe slowly until I know what to do.11
- Getting angry isn’t going to help.
- I can handle this and stay in control.
- Remember to breathe. Remember to breathe.
- People aren’t against me – they’re for themselves.12
Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Feelings
Your inner voice sometimes lies to you, and those lies can provoke powerful anxiety, anger, depression, panic and pain.
Fortunately, since you know that thoughts create feelings and behaviors, you can retake control over your wandering mind with coping statements that bring truth and positive thinking back to the forefront. And once you start thinking right – you’ll start feeling right.
If you struggle with overwhelming thoughts, coping statements can help you. They’re easy to create and they don’t cost you anything but a few minutes of your time. Why not give them a try?
- 1. Psychology Today – Using Coping Cards to Manage Anxiety
- 2. Coping Statements for Anxiety
- 3. Coping with Negative Thinking
- 4. A Comparison of Skills Training and Cognitive Restructuring for Speech Anxiety
- 5. Anxiety Network: Coping Statements for Anxiety
- 6. The Effect of Coping Statements on Progress Through a Desensitization Hierarchy
- 7. Anxiety Advice: About Phobias
- 8. RMIT: Coping with Panic Attacks
- 9. Effects of Coping Statements on Experimental Pain in Chronic Pain Patients
- 10. McMaster Children’s Hospital: Coping Statements for Disorders Eating Patients
- 11. Coping Statements for Anger Management
- 12. SMART Recovery: Rational Thinking for Anger Management
Page last updated Sep 21, 2013