Mantras and Power Phrases

One of the things I’ve learned through practicing yoga is the power of a mantra.

From the Sanskrit words “man” (to think) and “tra” (instrument), a mantra is an instrument of thought. It’s a tool used by yogis, typically during meditation, to turn inward and find stillness away from the noise of the outer world and the chaos of our thoughts. It helps quiet and focus the mind and establish a connection with your true self.

My yoga teachers usually start a class by asking us to set an intention or sharing a mantra to use throughout the practice, and that combination of purposeful thinking and physical movement often helps me let go, find peace and cultivate inner strength.

Recently, I listened to a podcast from The Chalene Show, hosted by fitness leader and entrepreneur Chalene Johnson, focused on power phrases. She described these as phrases, words or sayings we repeat to ourselves in times of difficulty, when we need to find strength and power through a challenging time.

I use both of these techniques, depending on my mood, activity and what I need in that moment. I thought I’d share some of my favourite mantras and power phrases.

Be bold, be true – I used this one for a long time in the long months following my divorce when I felt shattered and emotionally adrift. I repeated this phrase daily to remind myself to be brave and true to myself, and it helps me choose the best path for me, even if it’s not the easiest. It’s a mantra I continue to use and which I hope will guide me for a long time to come.

Maybe that’s not true – This is how I question my brain when it’s telling me that I have no friends, that no one wants to hear what I have to say or that I’m not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, whatever. This simple phrase is enough to question whether what I’m thinking is based on reality or whether it’s possible that my anxiety disorder is taking over, and usually that’s enough to power through the moment and start practicing cognitive behavioural therapy.

I am stronger than I think – Courtesy of Autumn Calabrese, trainer in the workout program that I do, this power phrase helps me dig deep through forearm plank or mountain climbers or any other challenging fitness situation in which I find myself.

Total health – Since I signed on with the 21-Day Fix program, this has been my guiding principle. I seek total health on a daily basis: mental, physical, emotional and social. If something doesn’t serve that purpose, I think twice about whether I should do it. After several years of feeling awful in every way – of being sick, tired and injured, of being filled with anxiety and depression, and of feeling professionally and personally unfulfilled – reminding myself to seek total health has resulted in me being happier and healthier today than I’ve been in a very long time.

Om namah shivaya – Sanskrit for “I honour the divinity within myself” and sometimes translated as “I am, I will,” this mantra helps me believe in myself and find inner strength.

Today I choose joy – I don’t use this one a lot but when I do, it’s powerful. I reminds me that I always have the choice to choose happiness and that I can make that choice right here, right now.

Fuck it,* I’m doing it** – I find myself saying this when I want to do something but fear is holding me back. It’s my way of shrugging off the doubt, feeling the fear and remembering that I’m strong enough to deal with the consequences when they occur. In the meantime, I’m going to do it and have fun.

What are your favourite mantras or power phrases? Tell me in the comments!

*It’s my blog and I’ll swear if I want to.

**Quite often used before jumping out of trees, ziplining or clicking “post” on The Post that Started it All.

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Managing Anxiety

Since learning that I have an anxiety disorder, managing it and learning to recognize its symptoms has become an important part of my life.

I take medication daily, which I feel is the right choice for me at this time. That may change in the future but it also may not, and I’m OK with that. For now, I find it gives me the breathing space I need to manage my anxiety without being overtaken by it.

Aside from that, I’ve slowly developed techniques and practices to help me cope with anxiety and depression. Some have come with professional help; others I’ve discovered on my own.

Physical exercise – For me, taking good care of my physical health is central to everything else. I beat myself out so I can sleep better. I exercise so that I feel better about myself (yes, that includes my physical appearance but it’s not the sole, or most important, factor). I play sports because they are fun and I can socialize with friends and other like-minded people. Exercise is also an excellent distraction. Whatever I have going on in my life, whatever stress or cloud I’m under, it provides short periods of time in my day when I’m not thinking about anything other than what my body is doing at that specific moment.

Being in nature – Studies show that even looking at green space outside of an office window can have a significant positive impact on mood. Being outside is always a mood enhancer for me, and you will frequently find me on the East Coast Trail with my dogs. The fresh air calms my mind, the chance to chat with a friend provides a sense of connection to others, and hiking with my dogs amuses me. Their joy at being outside, running free, becomes my joy. When I’m in the woods or near the ocean, I’m instantly calmer.

I’m lucky that I live in a city that has easy access to hiking trails and beautiful, wild coastlines that are just minutes away from my house by car. Get outside: fresh air will cure what ails ya! (Still not convinced? Read this.)

Questioning negative thoughts –Cognitive behavioural therapy is an important tool for anyone who suffers from anxiety, and it’s one that I learned from a counsellor. There are several facets to it but the ones that help me the most are challenging negative thoughts and looking at the evidence for what’s probable versus what’s possible.

For people with anxiety disorders, worst-case scenario thinking is common.  It doesn’t take much for me to jump quickly from a disagreement with a friend to believing that I have no friends, for example, and my brain often tells me that I’m a burden to others. Is it possible? Sure. But does the evidence show that either of these beliefs are probable? I simply have to look at the actions of my friends and family to recognize that no, they are not probable.

Good nutrition – In order to feel well, I have to eat well. I definitely indulge sometimes and my sweet tooth occasionally gets out of hand but I also put a lot of effort into fueling my body with healthy and nutritious food that supports the active lifestyle that I love.

Looking for joy – Call this whatever you want: taking pleasure in the little things, practicing gratitude, counting your blessings, etc. For me, actively looking for joy often means that I find it, even if it’s just for a brief moment in my day.

Anxiety isn’t a pleasant feeling, and being consumed by it is downright damaging. And although I still struggle, often on a daily basis, I’m learning how to live a more mindful, authentic and grounded life in which I look forward to what it will bring me next.

What helps you manage anxiety or mental illness? What strategies do you use to get through your day? Tell me in the comments below.