Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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positive affirmations

THINK your way to less stress

Stress is everywhere.

Great leaders understand that a certain amount of stress in life is healthy and even necessary.  However, leaders also know to minimize unnecessary stress when possible.  Reducing stress is not coddling your people.  Rather, it means helping your teams stay positive, stay focused, and stay productive among the multitudes of distractions, pressures, and Issues competing for their limited time. 

Many people use affirmations for personal development and to help them meet their life goals. But did you know you can use affirmations to build resilience and combat stress?

Whether it’s a one-off stress, like having to give a presentation or an ongoing stressful issue, such as a stressful job, you can create the right affirmations to support yourself.  Affirmations can help you deal better with current stress, increase confidence, and over time, improve your capabilities.

1. Know the Negatives

Identifying your negative thoughts is the first step in working out the best affirmations for you and your situation.

Negative thoughts are the enemy of confidence.

Take a moment to think of all the beliefs that come up when you think about your stressful event. Do you worry about not knowing what to say at a party, or maybe freezing while you try to deliver a presentation? Write down every negative thought that pops into your head.  Acknowledge that they are there.  Then make the conscious decision that those negative beliefs are not going to be your reality.  Make the decision to move away from those negative beliefs.

2. Turn the Negatives into Positives

Now that you have a list of negatives, you can take each one and turn it into a positive. For every negative thought, craft a strong positive statement by reminding yourself of times in the past when you coped well in similar situations.

I did not learn to ski until I was about 40. In my mind, that is about 33 years too late.  While I would like to be one of those beautiful skiers who appears to float down the mountain, I look more like I am about to fall at any moment.  Gravity allows me to move faster down mountains than I probably should.

I am not a confident skier.  When on the mountain with some very skilled skiers, I got scared.  Actually frightened.  I got a pit in my stomach when I looked down and saw what seemed like a complete vertical drop.  My friend looked at me and said, “You’ve skied Whistler.  This is much easier.  You’ve done much harder. Follow me.”

Her confidence in my past experience, and remembering what I skied before made that first push forward possible. 

If you need help with an affirmation, talk with a friend knows what you can do.  Other people can often see what we cannot.  A coach or mentor can be helpful during a business situation.

Write down some positive phrases to get you through, such as:
“I’m feeling stressed, but I will be ok.”
“I can do this.”
“When this is over, I will be proud of myself.”

3. Keep Your Affirmations Realistic

Affirmations are not magic. Keep your affirmations in proportion to what you can do and how you feel. If they are too ambitious, they can make you feel more anxious, as you may feel a sense of failure if you have a misstep.

Maybe you get anxious about public speaking. That could be giving a formal presentation, talking to a large group of employees, or pitching an idea to leadership.

Start by preparing yourself for possibilities.  Your affirmations will help you even more if you know you have done everything possible to be prepared.

If you worry about getting stage fright or going blank, prepare every aspect of your speech or presentation. Remind yourself that you know how to do this, and that you are the expert on this subject. 

Anticipate what might go wrong and work out strategies to prevent or deal with it.

That might mean having spare notes in case the technology fails or having a glass of water nearby if suddenly your throat goes dry or you get dizzy.

You are what you believe.  Allowing your team to stay mired in a negative place means they are not achieving their full potential.  They may need a boost of confidence from you, and they may need reminders that they can do it.

Would you like some help?  Schedule a time to talk with Mary about building a more confident team at

The below visual is yours to download and share with your staff and peers. 


  1. Judy James

    Hi Mary,
    I work with a team of Youth Corrections Staff trainers. I’m sending them your job energizer positive reflections.
    It’s been a hard year for everyone and these seem to bring us back to a good place.
    Thanks for all you do.
    (SGMP Rocky Mountain Chapter)

    • Mary Kelly

      Judy, so glad to hear you are sharing what I share here. Thank you!


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