5 Self-talk Mantras for When You're Panicking – Anxiety & Derealisation
Powerful words that help me daily
I was diagnosed with anxiety and derealisation/depersonalisation in 2019, my last year of school, and I’m really proud to say that I know a lot more about myself and my mental health issues than I did back then. I started off that year with daily panic attacks and derealisation episodes, a terrifying mindset, and more tears than I’ve ever cried before. If you're interested in hearing more about my experiences overcoming anxiety and derealisation in year 12, you can read the personal essay I wrote here, but today I wanna talk about some of the techniques that have helped me cope with these mental health challenges since then.
Self-talk helps me daily, but it took a little bit of trial-and-error to get to where I am now. After testing out phrases that my counsellor suggested to me, and trying some that I saw online, these are the ones I’ve found most helpful. I’ve used them consistently over the past year and I’ve seen the positive effects they’ve had on my mindset, but I have to acknowledge that these may not work for everyone. These are the things that I need to remind myself when I’m anxious or panicking, but it might be different for you.
I’m writing this article in the hopes that someone will find comfort in these words, whether you use every phrase or even just adapt one of them to fit your way of thinking. I’ve numbered them below and under each idea I’ve gone a little more in-depth about why this particular idea helps me when I feel my anxiety symptoms flaring up. I really hope they can help you as much as they help me!
(The first two on the list are my most-used mantras, but the other three are in no particular order.)
1. “These thoughts are irrational.”
This is a simple one that I repeat to myself exactly as it’s written here. Acknowledging that my thoughts are irrational is such a powerful technique for me; it reminds me that these intrusive thoughts are coming from my anxiety, and they’re false. When I dissociate during my derealisation episodes, I sometimes doubt where I am, who I am, who the people around me are, and whether I’m safe. When this happens, I remind myself that these thoughts are irrational, and that I know the truth of what is happening around me.
2. “I am still safe even though I am panicking. Nothing has changed except my thoughts.”
I wish I’d understood this back in year 12, when I was really struggling; I use this mantra all the time now and it’s super helpful. Derealisation is an extremely disorienting experience. My perspective of the world seems to shift inside my head and it’s like I don’t know where I am. It feels like I’m viewing the world from behind a TV screen, not actually in control of my body. Sounds are too loud and lights are too bright; everything is unsettling. It becomes really difficult to comprehend what’s happening around me.
This mantra reminds me that even though it seems like everything has changed, it’s really just my perspective shifting because of my anxiety. Derealisation is just one of the ways anxiety manifests for me.
Throughout year 12, especially in the first few months of the year when I had my first intense derealisation episodes, I was constantly terrified of slipping back into that disturbing state of mind. I found it incredibly frightening, losing control like that, and by dreading the inevitable return of this feeling I made my anxiety worse. It’s taken me over a year to reach the point I’m at now, where I can use this mantra to calm my mind and find peace in myself, even when I’m dissociating.
For example, I find leaving the house at night often triggers my derealisation. I’m not really sure why, but if I’m going out for dinner or to a party, and we leave when it’s already dark outside, it usually sends me into a state of derealisation. I’ll feel my heart rate escalate as I’m closing the front door behind me, and I’ll start to sweat. By the time I get in the car, I’m usually already spaced out.
When this happens, I use a number of grounding techniques (which I’ll be talking about in another story, so stay tuned for that one) and I mentally repeat this mantra. I remind myself that I’ve been outside in the dark before, I’ve driven in a car before, I’ve been out for dinner before; nothing is new or threatening to me, it just feels like it. I’m still safe and capable. My thoughts are the only element of this situation that has changed.
I’ll observe my surroundings, remind myself that everything around me is familiar, including the people I’m with, and slowly start to calm down. Sometimes it’s a matter of minutes, but more often it can take up to an hour to ground myself in reality and feel present again. Either way, this mantra helps me every time.
3. “I am okay. I am in control.”
This one is another simple one, but sometimes when I’m panicking that’s all I can focus on; short, simple phrases are easy to repeat and focus on when you feel anxious or spaced out. The more you tell yourself something, the more you believe it, so if I’m starting to panic, I repeat this one for a while. Even if I do end up panicking still, it helps me remember that everything will be okay, and that I’m still in control of my body and mind.
Anxiety and derealisation often make us feel like we’re losing control, so it’s helpful to remind yourself that you’re actually still in charge of what goes on in your mind. Simple but effective. You are okay. You are in control.
4. “Even though I feel like this now, it will not last forever. I’ve felt better before, and I’ll feel better again.”
This one is for when I’m at my worst. Sometimes, even if I use all my other techniques, I still experience intense periods of derealisation and panic attacks. This mantra helps put me at ease and reminds me that I’ve overcome these issues before.
When I’m in a negative mental state, it’s hard to feel like things will get better. Without fail, every time I dissociate from my body because of my derealisation and anxiety, I worry that it will never end. That’s one of the lies our anxiety tells us: we’ll never feel normal again. During these times, I use this mantra to remind myself that this isn’t true. That’s why it’s crucial to practise self-talk regularly; it’s like a reflex now, one that I’ve learnt through many dark episodes and panic attacks. Things will get better, and I tell myself this even when I don’t believe it. That’s what this mantra is for.
5. “I know this feeling. I’m aware of this feeling. I will feel it and then let it go.”
I use this one when I have more mild symptoms, to acknowledge that I’ve experienced these things before, and I know I have to allow myself to feel them. It’s not helpful to ignore every feeling that comes with anxiety; I notice where the feeling is coming from, acknowledge whether it’s rational or irrational, and allow myself to just sit with it. I notice how it makes my body feel and try not to shut myself off from it immediately. Calm observation. Then, I use my breathing exercises and other self-talk mantras, if I feel the need, and allow myself to relax, letting the feeling go.
This is another technique that has taken me lots of practise. It’s hard for me to observe the disorienting symptoms of derealisation/depersonalisation and not freak out, but I’m getting better every day, and even though these small improvements in self-support may be slow-going, they are still there.
Using these self-talk mantras will take practice, but once you find what works for you, it can be one of your most powerful tools for dealing with anxiety symptoms. You should be so proud of yourself for how far you’ve come, even if it’s taken you a long time to get to where you are now; the smallest steps are still movements in the right direction.
Thanks for taking the time to read about my favourite mantras. I really hope you found something helpful here.
I plan on writing many more stories on this topic, so stick around if you’re interested in more advice from me. I hope to see you here again soon!
Sending you good vibes and love! xx