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Daily Words of Wisdom

So stressed you could scream? This simple strategy can take you from panic to peace in a single phrase.

WebMD Feature from "Good Housekeeping" Magazine

By Beth Levine
Good Housekeeping Magazine Logo
So stressed you could scream? This simple strategy can take you from panic to peace in a single phrase.

We all know what it's like to be on the brink of losing it. Overstuffed schedules, the competing demands of family and work, the sting of setbacks and disappointments, and the trauma of a troubled economy can gang up to push us near the edge of the ledge. But a surprisingly easy and effective technique can help us avert meltdown. Repeating a positive, personal phrase — a meaningful motto minted from life experience, plucked from a favorite book or movie, or borrowed from a role model — can refocus our priorities, remind us that we're competent and capable, calm us down, and propel us forward. Exhausted runners call these affirmations "marathon mantras" and repeat them during grueling stretches when they're on the verge of quitting. This strategy can work for anyone; Herbert Benson, M.D., director emeritus of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Boston, recommends it for lowering stress in everyday life. Repeating a meaningful phrase, he says, breaks the train of anxious thought. Research suggests that the technique can rewire some anxiety circuits in the brain.

We asked women across the country what words of wisdom they summon to restore perspective when they're about to spiral out of control. Borrow theirs or, better yet, coin your own.

When life looks like it's falling apart, it may just be falling in place

—Beverly Solomon, 55, Lampasas, TX; creative director

"When my husband and I left Houston to restore an 1856 ranch in the Texas Hill Country, it seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong did. I was starting to have doubts about our decision. But then I realized that all of these 'bad things' had to happen — and this affirmation came to me. Now I say it to myself whenever something upsetting happens."

Will this matter five years from now? No? Then get over it.

—Hali Chambers, 45, Luray, VA; massage therapist

"I use it whenever little disasters stress me out — I miss an important phone call, say — or if someone cuts me off while driving. It helps me keep perspective on what's important: family, friends, staying centered."

When I focus on what's good, I have a good day.

—Meg Joseph, 42, New Rochelle, NY; community college marketing professor

"I say that to myself when I'm confronted with a setback. Recently, I just couldn't complete a grant application by the deadline. Instead of beating myself up about it, I focused on two good things — first, that I could finish up the proposal when I had more time and apply next year, and second, that I now had more time to focus on my family. I could feel the tension releasing almost instantly."

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