There are all kinds of study tips and tricks we are told that are super important in college. Things like eating something before class, eliminating distractions, taking rigorous notes, and trying to get a good night’s rest the night before a big test. But something we don’t really talk about is the way our inner dialogue impacts our success in the classroom.

Something we all fall victim to from time to time is negative self speak, but the stress of schoolwork and getting out of our comfort zones can greatly increase one’s feelings of stress, self doubt, and negativity. It’s no secret that our thoughts create very real physical states within our bodies. Emotional states of fear, anger, anxiety, guilt, shame, or regret cause muscles to become weaker and can create digestive or gastrointestinal symptoms… even changing your body’s biochemistry and hormone levels.

The best way to combat negative self speak is to get ahead of it and address it once we realize it’s happening. But first we need to be able to identify it.

Signs of negative self speak:

— Limited Thinking: Telling yourself you can’t do something over and over until you start to believe it. Reaffirming the same negative thought can be extremely harmful and counterproductive.

— Perfectionism: Believing that what you do isn’t “as good as” or “good enough.” Surrendering to the idea that everything you produce has to be “perfect” when in reality perfection does not exist and is unattainable.

— Depression: There has been research that suggests that negative self-talk can lead to an increase in feelings of depression.

— Strain on Relationships: Your frustrations and negativity are contagious when they are ongoing and unchecked. If you’re excessively fuming and negative around others it could eventually cause problems within those relationships.

— Imposter Syndrome: Feeling like you don’t really belong or that you made it this far by some kind of mistake. It feels like you’re waiting to be found out when in reality you’ve made it this far because of your hard work and determination.

But fear not, there is always room to improve your self speak in a way that will help with your studies and allow you to focus on your next test instead of wasting time cutting yourself down. There are lots of ways to stop negative self speak in its tracks.

Catch Yourself: Learn to notice when you begin saying things to yourself that you wouldn’t say to a child or a close friend– so you can stop. What you think about yourself in this moment is definitely biased and subject to your mood and stress level. Remember to take a step back and evaluate your self-judgments.

Give the Mean Voice a Nickname: Giving your voice a name and personality can give you the ability to realize that you do not have to agree with their opinions of you. It makes it easier to see how overly critical some of your thoughts about yourself are. “Shut up, Karen.”

Neutralize the Negativity: It can be really hard to stop your mean self speak immediately so changing the intensity of your language is a good stepping stone. Change “hate” to “I don’t like” or “I can’t stand” or “this is challenging.”

Would You Say it to Your Favorite Person?: We often say things to ourselves that we would never in a million years say to someone close to us. Next time you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself imagine saying that to your dearest person. Now ask yourself why you have any business saying that to yourself?

Stop The Thought: It can be helpful to snap a rubber band on your wrist whenever you have a negative thought you feel is taking over. It can be useful when trying to break repetitive or extremely critical thoughts like, “I’ll never get it,” or “I’m not supposed to be here.”

Positive Affirmation: Instead of trying to eliminate self speak altogether, create new habits with encouraging words and positive mantras. Envision a positive outcome and assure yourself out loud that it’s all going to happen the way you want.

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