Overcome Anxious Self-Talk with a Writing Exercise

April 20, 2010 Aimee White

Learn how to identify and overcome negative self-talk with a writing exercise. Plus replace negative thoughts about yourself with positive affirmations instead.

Anxious self-talk influences me every morning. Although I know morning sickness is a good sign pregnancy-wise, ingrained into my subconscious I feel throwing up is a setback. I know the anxiety is because of something I am telling myself (aka negative, anxious self-talk). To figure this all out, I know I have to do a writing exercise. So far, it is the best skill I have learned to help me overcome and manage my anxiety.

Psychologist, anxiety treatment specialist and author, Edmund J. Bourne, Ph.D, defines anxious self-talk and how it works against you:

  • It is so automatic and subtle you don't notice it or the effect it has on your moods and feelings.
  • It appears in telegraphic form- one short word or image ("Oh no!) contains a whole series of thoughts, memories, or associations.
  • Anxious self-talk is typically irrational but almost always sounds like the truth.
  • Negative self-talk perpetuates avoidance.
  • Self-talk can initiate or aggravate a panic attack.
  • Negative self-talk is a series of negative bad habits. You have to reprogram your brain to say helpful uplifting confident talk to remove the negative thoughts.
  • Women with anxiety are especially prone to anxious self-talk and negative thoughts about themselves.

Writing Exercise Calms Anxious Self-Talk

Journaling my thoughts, no matter how silly or stupid they sound, is the first step in this writing exercise. I do this so that I can figure out what negative things I am telling myself subconsciously which, in turn, is causing the anxiety.

  • I am frustrated because I should be stronger than this. I shouldn't be experiencing anxiety at all.
  • What if my anxiety is really bad throughout the entire pregnancy? How will I ever take care of my family?

Now there's some red flags. If you ever use the words "I should" or "I have to," then The Perfectionist is talking you down. The Perfectionist is a sub-personality which promotes negative self-talk, contributing to chronic stress and burnout.

The words "What if" are used when the Worrier sub-personality is causing anxiety.

The other kinds of sub-personalities are the Victim ("I can't. I'll never be able to) which promotes depression, and the Critic ("Can't you ever get it right?") which promotes low self-esteem.

Switch It, Change It, Rearrange It

It's important to be able to recognize when you are promoting this self-talk behavior and what you are telling yourself. Then you counter your negative self-talk with positive counter-statements (positive affirmations) that you believe in or want to believe in.

I will replace those thoughts with some new ones:

  • I can let my body do its thing. I accept these feelings and know that they will eventually pass.
  • I am okay the way that I am right now.
  • This is not permanent.
  • I have survived this before, I can do it again.
  • My family loves and supports me.

Next time I am feeling anxious, instead of letting my thoughts race, I will take deep breaths and say these things to myself slowly until I calm down.

APA Reference
White, A. (2010, April 20). Overcome Anxious Self-Talk with a Writing Exercise, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 20 from

Author: Aimee White

April, 27 2010 at 3:39 am

Thank you. This was very helpful. I would recommend reading "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie, who offers The Work, which is inquiry into our "judgments" about ourselves and other people. It's truly an amazing and eye-opening exercise that I feel sure will bring you peace.

April, 22 2010 at 9:48 am

Well put!
I'm gonna try to do this exercise as well.

esti d-g
April, 22 2010 at 6:34 am

Thank you for such a helpful and practical solution that works every time.

April, 21 2010 at 10:25 am

I want to thank you for the topic of negative self talk. I really needed this because sometimes I have to go back to the basics and then I will be able to work at what I need to work on. Again, thank you very much.

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