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How To Motivate Yourself In Times Of Stress


Stress. It’s all too common in today’s society. Sometimes stressful situations are thrust upon us and sometimes we put ourselves into stressful situations.

What do you do to help calm yourself down and motivate yourself when you are facing tough times? When you just have to plow through and get though to the other side?

There are many situations that we face where phrases or sayings help motivate us to take that first step into the unknown.

You know those stressful situations that everyone seems to go through as rite-of-passages?  Situations such as:

  • The job interview where you desperately need the job.
  • When you have butterflies in your stomach right before you ask out that pretty girl/handsome guy. Or worse, before meeting up with a blind date.
  • Right before you walk into a room full of strangers. (Who you just know are going to be funnier, cooler and much better-looking than you)
  • When you get up to give an important speech in front of a bunch of VIPs (or ANY speech in front of ANY one)
  • When you go into salary negotiations or when you are ready to ask for a raise.
  • When you go into the boss’s office and hand in your 2-week notice. (The butterflies are fighting with exhilaration here)
  • Right before you go into the doctor’s or dentist’s office
  • For some writers, right before you hit the ‘Publish” or ‘Send’ button on your first article.
  • In any scary, stressful or first-time situation you find yourself.

Motivational sayings and phrases have power. They have the power to push you through your fears and calm yourself down in times of stress.

Inspired by this post at MetaFilter, here are some common motivational phrases from people who face similar stressful situations. They tell themselves:

  • “Ok. Deep breath. Shoulders back, head up. You can do this. Go!”
  • “Don’t panic. You can do this!”
  • “Don’t fuck this up.”
  • “They can’t eat me.”
  • “I’m not afraid to die.”
  • “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone-it! people like me!”
  • “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”
  • “What’s the worst that can happen?”
  • “Will this matter in 5 minutes, 5 days or 5 years?”
  • “Help me Jesus.”
  • “Time to put on your big girl pants.”
  • “I am a river… I flow.”
  • “Never give up, never surrender!”
  • “C’mon, you can do *anything* for an hour.”
  • “Millions of people do this every day. I can do this, too.”
  • “What’s the worst that can happen?”
  • “Let’s just get it over with. 3-2-1 GO!”
  • “It’s gonna be alright.”
  • “Proceed and be bold.”
  • “Go ahead and kill me, but I doubt you will succeed where so many others have failed.”
  • “No one cares about you.”

I had a pretty stressful morning at work the other day. You know the ones I’m talking about –  the one where it’s Monday morning and you had a hard enough time motivating yourself to get up to go to work and then something happens and you wonder why you just don’t walk out the door? The temptation is SO strong, but you know that while the momentary thrill of quitting on the spot would be SO wonderful, but you just have to tough it out because you have long-term plans and like to eat.

In those kind of situations, my go-to phrase is always “This, too shall pass”. I’m old enough and have had enough experiences in my life to realize that nothing lasts forever. This phrase helps me to put stressful situations into perspective. I repeat this phrase to myself and the feelings of wanting to walk out the door slowly dissipate. I can then manage to get through another day.

It would be so easy to give in to the voice of our fears when we are facing difficult or stressful situations.  The problem with giving in though is that if you give in and admit defeat, you start to let other fears creep into your life and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

In your own mind you are telling yourself that you are not strong enough to beat the fear back and you give in to it. You don’t ask the girl/guy out. You don’t ask for the job or the raise. In fact, you don’t even ask for the job. You have fears about giving that speech or going to the doctors and when you give into the fears, your life becomes just a little smaller.

Other fears start to surface and soon enough, you are fearful of any stressful situation and your confidence becomes nil.

That’s why it’s so important to have a couple of phrases that will push through your fear in stressful situations in order to motivate yourself and strengthen your confidence muscles.

If you don’t have a motivational phrase that works for you, use any of the one’s here or find one that really works for you. Have a couple for various situations.

Another one of my favourite motivational phrases, when I’m really scared to do something even when I know that I have to do it because it will most likely help me, is “I CAN DO THIS!” (Yes, I shout it out. You have to say it with passion and conviction. Clenching your fists also helps). I vividly remembering using this phrase the first time I walked into a nightclub where they were teaching salsa dancing. I wanted to learn how to salsa dance and no one would take classes with me. I also had to use it the first time I showed up at the nightclub to dance on a Friday night alone. Talk about a scary and stressful situation!

Depending on the situation, I’ll also say to myself  “I’ll handle it“. This one is really useful when you are lacking confidence and are scared of the outcome of taking an action. Knowing that I’ll handle, to the best of my ability, any result that happens usually calms me down enough to take the necessary step in spite of my fears.

This is a great one, too (if you have a good memory):

The Bene Gesserit (from Dune) Litany against fear:

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

How do you motivate yourself? What phrases or sayings do you use to motivate yourself to push through your fears in stressful situations? Share with us by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Related Posts:

1. An Important Exercise To Help You Create The Life You Want
2. The Secret Stress Buster No One Dares Tell You About – Guest Post
3. From Homeless To The Infopreneur – Guest Post
4. Warning: Following These 5 Tips May Get You Out Of Your Rut
5. How To Stop Thinking And Start Doing – Guest Post

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42 comments… add one

  • I rely on ‘this too shall pass’ as well. Often, I need to adjust my whole mindset though. Sometimes I’m stressed because I’m doing too much or getting overly attached to outcomes. Just pausing a bit to realize that I’m in charge of my life and have the power to choose better thoughts and actions helps motivate me.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..Making Your Personality Shine Through Your Blog =-.

    • Hey Jean,

      Gald to hear that someone else uses that phrase, too :-)

      You make a good point about overloading ourselves intentionally and it causing us stress. Taking some things off our plate helps and of course, so does knowing that we have a choice in our actions and thoughts.


  • Great post on motivation! I was looking for motivational messages this morning and then I got the email alert for your post…Awesome timing.

    I don’t have specific phrases per se but I do use the technique of success logs. I keep track of various things I have accomplished in the past where I was really proud of myself and I know I did an awesome job. I will read, listen to or watch those accomplishments (depending on the medium) and quickly remind myself that I am capable of handling new challenges because I was able to handle old challenges.

    The underlying message of your post is the key… remind yourself that you have what it takes to face any situation and come out on the other end as a stronger person.
    .-= Justin Popovic´s last blog ..Creating a Sense of Urgency to Drive Results =-.

    • Thanks, Justin,

      Glad to see that someone reads my article emails :-)

      That’s a great tip to remind yourself of your past successes. Knowing that you will be able to figure things out again, just like at the beginning of your other successes, will help you overcome any dips in your confidence level. As you say, knowing that we can handle anything that comes in our life, is key motivator.


  • This is great! I love those phrases…especially the Stuart Smally reference. I am a huge advocate of stress management. It’s so easy to let stress really drag you down. Being proactive and preparing for the inevitable is the best way to go. These are great recommendations. Thank you!
    .-= Chrissy @ Eat Your Career´s last blog ..Feeling Lost in Your Career I Can Help =-.

    • Welcome Chrissy,

      I had to look up which one is the Stuart Smally reference (“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone-it! people like me!” ) from SNL because I wasn’t familiar with it. I say, use whatever works! :-)

      Glad that you enjoyed reading the article.


  • Those are some great tips, Karen. Taking command of inward self-talk is absolutely essential to handling stressful situations in our life. You always advance quicker when you do that little extra inner work necessary to convince yourself that you can accomplish what you’re up to — never shirk your inner duty!
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..How to Vanish Tension in These Tough Times =-.

    • Thanks, Rob

      Appreciate you sharing your insights and wisdom :-)

  • Hi Karen, this article is very timely for me. I find doing new for the first time is a big cause of anxiety, stress and self-consciousness.

    I left my day job to pursue a new path in web/design, which is something I love but is new to me. I recently went through a week of overwhelming self-doubt when I was building my first portfolio: “What if people think my work is poor?”, “What if people think I’m stupid for leaving a good job behind to end up pursuing something I’m not good at?” or “What if I can’t find work in this field?”.

    During that week I learned to tell myself 2 things:
    1. I reminded myself that everyone initially starts with knowing nothing. If we were watching a young person begin art/design classes, we would never put down his work because we know he’s practicing. So why should I see myself differently? The only difference is instead of being a teenager I’m in my twenties, but I’m starting from scratch and it will take time to get grow.

    2. People around us want us to succeed and see us in a more positive light than we think. For example, if a nervous presenter makes a slip, I’d continue listening attentively and nod once in a while to let them know I value what they’re saying. I would never make a face at them to tell them screwed up. 5 minutes after that presentation I won’t even remember it happened. I think people around us are nicer, kinder and more supportive than we may perceive them to be (perhaps from a bad past experience or because our minds are exaggerating our fears/self-consciousness).

    Thanks for a great article Karen!
    .-= Lily´s last blog ..10 Questions to Free You From Status Quo =-.

    • Hi Lily,

      You bring up some excellent points in your comment. I think about that, too – that people want us to succeed and that everyone starts at the beginning (everyone’s a newbie at something!). It helps to remember that and put stressful or uncertain situations into context.

      You just have to continue with your belief in yourself and soon you won’t be a newbie any longer. As long as you don’t give in to the fear and keep persevering.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experiences,

  • Hi Karen,

    Nice article on how to motivate yourself. For me, when I feel stressed and unmotivated, I take a deep breath and then just try to focus on the best thing that I can do for the current solution and I try to focus on the benefits that I will get in the long run. It works out very well for me. Thanks for sharing Karen!
    .-= Dia´s last blog ..Fear of success and failing =-.

    • Thanks, Dia. I think that’s a common response – to take a deep breath. I read somewhere that we we are frightened, our breaths become very shallow and we tense up (the flight or fight response). Calming ourselves down by taking deep breaths allows more oxygen to flow and that helps us think more clearly.

      Thinking of the future benefits is another key response. Knowing that that pain of facing your fear during the stressful times will be overshadowed by the future benefit is often worth pushing through.

  • Karen, Very motivational stuff! It is sometimes hard to overcome stress but perhaps some of those motivational phrases help. I certainly know I personally like to think of phrases like that to get me through tough times.

    Often when stressed out I think the best thing to do is take a deeeeep breath, calm down a little, think “happy thoughts” for a second and push on. It sounds easier than it is, but it helps keep you centered and on track.
    .-= Steve´s last blog ..Info Income Coaching Class Week 9 =-.

    • Hi Steve,

      I’m sensing a theme with the deep breathing exercises to calm ourselves down :-)

      Happy thoughts don’t always work for me – I usually have to psych myself up to motivate myself and force myself to do the scary stuff, but it sounds like you’ve found something that works for you.

      Thanks for sharing,

  • I know this is going to sound completely geeky but I absolutely love Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and more importantly the famous line “Don’t Panic”.

    The mixture of warm feelings I get when I remember reading the book the first time and being so spot on about life chills me out immediately.

    It just reminds me that sh*t happens and there’s little we can do about it sometimes but in the grander scheme of things it tends to work out in the end.

    Think about it; you’re stressed over something like traffic but why does that really matter? Sure it’s annoying at the moment but life is too grande to be caught up in the minutia. Don’t let stress stop you from doing great things :P
    .-= Murlu´s last blog ..The Single Biggest Reason Why You’re Not Making Money With Your Blog =-.

    • Hi Murray,

      I also like to think that things will work out in the end. We don’t always get what we want, but there are always lessons to be learned. Plus, most of the time, we are better persons for going through the stressful times. It makes you appreciate the un-stressful times more.


  • I remember that all fear and all stress is created in the mind and because I created it all (unconsciously) then I can drop it all away (consciously).

    You have absolute control of how you live your internal life. See the thoughts and be pickyt about which ones you choose to repeat. Reinforce the beliefs that make your state of mind inpenetrable to the outside world.
    .-= Jarrod – Cultivating Heroes´s last blog ..Today’s Only Most Important Lesson =-.

    • Welcome Jarrod,

      I quite like the reminder that we have created the fear and stress in our lives and and that we can choose to ‘drop it all away’.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts,

  • I use the phrase “I am bigger than this” while trying to feel just that…larger than my fear!! I also try to remember scared can be good. In theatre all of my best performances came when the stakes were high and the butterflies were going crazy in my tummy but, instead of paralyzing, that same fear was used as energy and fueled me right through the anxiety of it all. :)
    .-= Clearly Composed´s last blog .. Tuesday’s Thought =-.

    • HI Emma,

      That’s a great motivational phrase! You bring up a great point in that fear can be used as energy and fuel so that you can push yourself to perform better than you ever had before. I think that’s fairly common (for me, anyways) to need the adrenaline push when I’m really facing my fears.


  • Karen,

    These are some great tips as I am sure most of us feel stressed at least some time in my life. I am feeling stressed a bit right now with load of school, life and other commitments in my life. I often take a deep breath and let go of some things and accept inevitable and life is easier to handle. Taking it slowly helps as much as I like to be everywhere and be on top, it is not possible.

    Having said that, my half stress is over! Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Preeti @ Heart and Mind´s last blog ..Wisdom gained from our camping trip =-.

    • Hi Preeti,

      It certainly sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate right now. September is the start of so many activities and the end of summer. You’ve got a great attitude to deal with all your stresses though – letting go of things that you can and only dealing with what you can. That’s all that any of us can do.


  • Great post, I think everyone needs a pep talk like this at times. Well at least I do:) Mostly I’m okay though and can even egg people on to do whatever scares them most. I tell them to give fear the finger:) Thanks Karen:)
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..16 Rules of Blog Writing Which Ones Are You Breaking =-.

    • “Give fear the finger” – I love that, Annabel :-)

      Thanks. I’ll have to remember that one.

  • I enjoyed your article and the comments following. We are so lucky to have frontal lobes in our brain that allow us to CHOOSE where to focus our thoughts! A couple of toughts I use are 1) “You only have to do your first time once”, and 2)” This is all just patterns of energy. Nothing serious is going on here.” That second one particularly allows me to disconnect from the outcome and stop trying to control the uncontrollable. In my presentation skills workshops, I also emphasize that the audience members are your fellow human beings, not judgemental ogres. We’re all on an equal footing. Thanks for sharing your positive energy!

    • Welcome Heather,

      You bring up a great point about distancing ourselves from the outcome, particularly when we have no control over what happens. It helps to put things into perspective. That’s another great point – that we are only human and most people aren’t judgemental. This bears remembering not only when we are facing our fears but when other people are, too. We can be just a little more kinder and more understanding when people are trying something for the first time.

      I’m glad that you enjoyed the article and thanks so much for sharing those great points.


  • Hi Karen: Well stress management is something I write about a lot! Recognizing your fears is the first step in stress management–yes and taking a deep breath does wonders to calm us down when we feel stress. But stress is just an obstacle and you write about the need to be motivated because we have bigger dreams and goals to achieve. Being motivated is a way of seeing the bigger picture. One of my favorite sayings is from Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” Sometimes I try to show courage in the face of stressful situations. And yes, “This too shall pass” is a great phrase. Thanks for the article Karen!
    .-= Ann´s last blog ..Life Balance and Stress =-.

    • Hi Ann,

      Yes, you have a lot of fantastic resources at your site http://www.stress-management-4-women.com and I urge anyone who wants more methods of dealing with stress to visit your site.

      I haven’t heard of that quote from Mark Twain, but it sure sums it up nicely. Thanks so much for sharing that :-)


  • I usually use some combo of “What’s the worst that can happen?” “Breathe” and “I’ll feel much better when it’s over.” I almost couldn’t bear to read the article because the picture made me want to flee! Now that Dune quote has exposed your inner geek :)
    .-= Jennifer Barry´s last blog ..Mobile Lifestyle =-.

    • Hi Jennifer.

      Oh, sorry that the picture I chose almost scared you off. Glad to hear that you had enough courage to get through the article :-) I think that if we remind ourselves of your excellent question of ‘What’s the worst that can happen’ and know that if it does actually happen, that we will still be okay, then we can face anything in life.

      Oh, I admit that I’m a total geek – no surprise there! :-)

      Thanks for stopping by,

  • Karen,
    Great article! Stress is a huge problem today, especially when you’re trying to do something new. I usually tell myself to: feel the fear and do it anyway!
    Thanks for sharing so many insights with us.
    .-= Angela Artemis´s last blog ..If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now =-.

    • Thanks, Angela and I’m glad that you enjoyed the article.

  • Hi Karen,
    Great motivation phrases, I feel.
    Well not the same to motivate me in stresses, I use many more than just one phrase mentioned here.
    Depending on the situation and the persons with whom i am going to deal with, the phrases I use get to change.Sometimes, I may encounter situations when I am lacking my confidence, sometimes I have it but I don’t trust the persons whom I am going to face.
    At times, the situation is just not under our control, we are helpless to say.
    Fear may be the one factor in some situation.
    So I am the one, I feel who use these phrases more often and lot more of them. and it has the real power to relax you off your stress and face the situation with a newer energy than what you could have thought of.
    Your post itself is a de-stressing one for the one who might be in stress.
    Lovely words, nice post and whole heartedly enjoyed this sharing of yours.
    Thanks a lot.
    .-= Sangita´s last blog ..Revering my teachers- Happy Teachers’ Day =-.

    • Welcome Sangita and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. You’ve made a great point of using different phrases in different situations in life. I know that I do that, too. No one motivational phrase works for me in all situations so it’s nice to have a few of them that you know works.

      Use whatever works for you :-)

  • Hello karen,

    How are you?
    Thanks for sharing this and believe me i felt like this a few days ago and i agree with the notion ‘phrases’ internalized serves as motivational or mood boosters. I am a huge fan of this too shall pass, it is going to be okay, it’s well, get on your horses,
    come on man!!!, go for it….. depending on the current situation or circumstance lol!!!!.
    Take care and enjoy the rest of the day

    • Hi Ayo,

      I’m well, thank you. It’s the long weekend here and I’ve had a few days off, which have been just lovely. Just what I needed to de-stress myself :-)

      “Get on your horses, get on man!” is a new one for me. Whatever works :-)

      Thanks for dropping by and I hope your stress levels decreases soon :-)


  • Hi Karen
    I enjoyed this post. There are some great ideas in it. The powerful self talk is great when you are nervous. As long as it something positive and encouraging that I am saying to myself it doesn’t matter what it is.
    However if I have got into a situation where I have had to motivate myself to find the courage to keep going I always try after wards to do something really relaxing to recharge my batteries
    .-= Marion Anderson´s last blog ..Money Matters – How to find the path to Financial Freedom =-.

    • Hi Marion,

      We should always treat ourselves afterwards, especially when we have pushed through our fear. I’m a firm believer in the reward system, rather than the punishment system. Nice to know that you treat yourself good, especially when you know that you need to recharge your batteries.

      Thanks for adding that. It’s important to know when you need to recharge and not continuously be in the stressful or fearful situation.


  • Hi Karen,

    Is it a coincidence that this artilce is posted on a Monday, the day you’re most likely to have a heart attack (presumably from stress!)

    .-= Matthew Needham´s last blog ..Why franchising might not be right for you =-.

    • Hi Matthew,

      I have heard of that, too. It’s usually after waking up and realizing that you have to go to work on that Monday morning that causes it. I believe it! Probably more so when it’s after the long weekend, too, with so many people dreading going back to work! :-)

      Yes, a total coincidence!

  • Hi Karen,
    New visitor here and I’m really enjoying your writing. I generally use a bunch of affirmations like “All is well in my world”, “I’m happy, healthy and strong enough for anything” and like Jean and you, “This too shall pass”:-)
    Always works like a charm!
    .-= Prerna´s last blog ..5 Simple Ways to Green Your Laundry =-.

    • Welcome Prerna,

      I like your saying “I’m happy, healthy, and strong enough for anything”. It reminds me of another saying that motivates me, which is “I’ll handle it”. Knowing that no matter what you’re strong enough and are able to handle anything that life brings, is very motivational.

      Thanks for sharing,


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