A mason jar of colorful pens sits next to a blank page of an open notebook.

It’s normal to feel stressed, worried or anxious about finals. Practicing positive affirmations can be a great way to change your perspective and outlook, especially during times of high stress. 

Here are a few tips for creating positive affirmations that can help you change negative thought patterns and get you through finals (and the rest of 2020).

1: Start with negative thoughts

To get started using positive affirmations, it can be helpful to look at how negative thought patterns may be impacting you. Consider making a list of any negative thoughts that are coming up for you around finals. These can include any doubts, self-criticisms or negative emotions you may be feeling.

Remember it’s normal to have a wide range of thoughts come up, including some that are positive and critical. If negative or critical thoughts come up for you, try to avoid judging whether they are accurate or truthful. Thoughts are often automatic, and it’s important to approach them with a sense of curiosity and examination rather than judgment. 

Once you’ve identified your list, use it to uncover common themes. Evaluate whether these thoughts are helpful and productive or if they may be hindering you. Understanding, acknowledging and examining any negative thoughts we may be holding onto is a great way to start practicing affirmations.

2: Use the first person

Positive affirmations are typically written as “I” statements. These are often referred to as identity statements, because they allow us to replace negative thoughts with a clear identity that reflects who we are or who we want to be. That’s why it’s important to begin each affirmation with “I” or “I am”. For instance, “I am confident” or “I am worthy”. 

3: Remain in the present

Positive affirmations work best when they are focused on what you want to be doing or feeling now, rather than what you would like to do in the future. Keep your affirmations grounded in the present by using the present tense. For example, it is better to say “I am healthy and active” rather than “I will be healthy and active after finals”.

4: Focus on solutions rather than problems

Positive affirmations are just that — positive. Create affirmations that help reinforce positive thoughts or behaviors rather than focusing on things you don’t want to do. For instance, rather than saying “I do not procrastinate”, say “I stay on top of my tasks and get things done”. 

Affirmations that use negative statements can often reinforce negative thoughts and behaviors, because the subject of the affirmation is based on a negative thought pattern. In the example above (I will not procrastinate), procrastination becomes the subject of the affirmation, rather than getting tasks done. This means that our brains are more likely to focus on the act of procrastination and unconsciously repeat that behavior.

5: Choose words that make you feel energized

Affirmations that use words that feel powerful and energize us tend to have a greater impact. Consider using a thesaurus or brainstorming with a friend to strengthen your statements. As an example, saying “I am remarkable and cherished” may feel more powerful for you compared to “I am worthy”. Be creative and experiment with your word choice throughout the process.

6: Make affirmations part of your routine

Affirmations are most effective when we say them outloud to ourselves on a daily basis. Making them a regular part of your daily routine can help them be more effective. For example, as you are getting ready in the morning, take a moment to look at yourself in the mirror as you say them.

You can also write them down on sticky notes and post them in places that you see often. For instance, you may stick them on your mirror, fridge, desk or door. Whenever you see them, take a few moments to breathe deep and speak them outloud to yourself.

Alternatively, if you feel awkward saying them out loud or posting them around the house, start by writing them down in a notebook or journal. Write out each statement several times. As you continue to journal, take note of whether your handwriting or style changes over time. This can be a good indication that your brain is processing and integrating your statements.

Affirmations to use during finals week

Need ideas for affirmations you can practice heading into finals week? Here are a few to try throughout the week and right before an exam or final project.

  • “I can do this.”
  • “I am calm and focused.”
  • “I take care of myself. I allow myself to take breaks.”
  • “I have studied hard this semester. I am smart and capable.”
  • “I know this material.”
  • “I possess the strength and ability to accomplish all of my goals and dreams.”

  • “I am determined. My hard work powers my success.”
  • “I am grateful for where I am today.”
  • “I believe in myself. I can overcome obstacles.”
  • “I can do hard things.”
  • “I am doing my best and I am proud of what I have accomplished.”

If you or someone you know is feeling overwhelmed, Counseling & Psychiatric Services (CAPS) is available to help. They can provide mental health support for in-state and out-of-state students.

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