Better Mind

8 Methods to pep talk yourself when you’re feeling stuck

8 Methods to pep talk yourself when you’re feeling stuck

Need a boost? Our best friend Jolly’s pep talks are legendary. But when she’s not around, knowing how to pep talk yourself is key. Pep talks can shift your mindset, lift your spirits, and spur you to action. They’re especially handy when you’re feeling stuck, battling self-criticism, or lacking motivation. Habits of thinking are powerful, so practicing self-pep can reshape your outlook over time.

At Seattle University, students have found these techniques surprisingly effective. Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you. Ready to pep talk yourself?

Here are some techniques to try:

Connect with your wise mind

Feeling defeated or overwhelmed? Meet your ‘wise mind’. It’s the part of you that wants the best for you and your actions to align with your values.

Your wise mind blends rational and emotional thinking. For instance, instead of pulling an all-nighter or procrastinating on a daunting task, your wise mind might say the pep talk, “Let’s work for two hours, relax for one, then finish tomorrow before the meeting.”

Take a moment to observe your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations with a gentle and compassionate perspective

This balanced perspective can also guide you away from harmful behaviors, like excessive substance use or social media scrolling. Your wise mind might nudge you to prioritize self-care or real-life connections instead.

To tap into your wise mind, try stepping back to see the bigger picture, focusing on your breathing, or observing your thoughts without judgment. By practicing this perspective, you’ll feel less caught up in momentary emotions and more connected to your deeper wisdom.

Change your perspective on a problem

When you’re confronted with a problem, your perspective may feel fixed, leading to self-criticism or frustration. But what if you could flip your thinking to find a more positive angle, while staying realistic?

For example, instead of dwelling on a cold disrupting your plans, you might see it as an opportunity to catch up on emails or writing. Studies show that reframing anxiety as activating energy can boost performance.

Here are some other ways to reframe challenges in a personal pep talk:

  • Regarding mistakes as part of the learning process, not signs of incapability.
  • Shifting from worry to problem-solving by finding ways to maintain friendships amidst a busy schedule.

Reframing doesn’t dismiss suffering but offers alternative perspectives to make it more manageable. Research suggests it can reduce depression, interrupt rumination, and improve overall well-being.

Identify successes

Instead of succumbing to feelings of overwhelm or inadequacy, try focusing on listing up to 10 actions you’ve completed today that have benefited yourself, others, or the world. No action is too small to acknowledge.

Reminding yourself that many problems are a normal part of being human can also help decrease perfectionism

Even seemingly mundane tasks like getting out of bed or sending a work email count. Taking a few minutes to compile a ‘done list’ can help alleviate the sense of not doing enough. You can reinforce these accomplishments by acknowledging them with phrases like “Well done” or “You did it” as you make the list.

Many find that this exercise, known as ‘spot the success,’ boosts motivation by creating a sense of momentum. After several weeks of practice, one student remarked that it initially felt trivial but eventually made them feel their days were valuable and productive, especially during periods of low motivation.

Make challenges seem normal

Many challenges you face, from work frustrations to exercise struggles, are quite common. Remind yourself that many people worldwide encounter similar difficulties; facing them doesn’t imply anything terrible about you.

Normalizing these challenges can counter assumptions like “I shouldn’t feel this way” or “I should handle this better,” reducing perfectionism. While it doesn’t erase problems, normalizing can ease self-blame and stigma that worsen them. However, normalizing should not downplay serious issues or discourage seeking support.

For instance:

“Feeling like my anxiety and depression make me defective is common. These conditions are prevalent, and managing tough emotions is a normal part of being human.”

Repeat your mantra

Instead of struggling to find the right words when stressed, consider having comforting phrases ready to use. Many find solace and improve their well-being by silently repeating specific phrases to themselves.

Loving-kindness meditation is a well-researched method where individuals repeat positive wishes, such as:

‘May I be safe.’

‘May I be content.’

‘May I be peaceful.’

‘May I live with ease.’

‘May I be well in body and mind.’

‘May my actions be skilful and kind.’

The purpose of a pep talk is to alter your mindset, emotions, and potentially your behavior

You can choose from these phrases or pick ones that resonate with you.

Repeating kind phrases to yourself might feel awkward initially, but it becomes easier with practice. One student likened it to ‘fake it until you make it,’ while another noticed feeling more positive on days they practiced loving-kindness meditation before class or work.


Sometimes, visuals can be more effective than words alone. When you were sick with the flu for two weeks, telling yourself “You will most likely feel better again” didn’t help. Instead, imagining a blazing orange-red fire brought me relief and comfort. The color of the fire felt even more nourishing than its imaginary heat.

Research shows that visualizing specific actions in your mind can enhance outcomes, like athletic performance. Some people combine visualization with step-by-step narration. For instance, when visualizing a golf swing, you might narrate each step: “I breathe in, feeling my body relax. My grip on the club is firm but not tense.”

Recognize suffering

A pep talk aims to shift your mindset, emotions, and possibly your actions. However, it’s crucial to validate your feelings and not expect everything to be perfect or easy. Here are examples of validation during a pep talk:

“Unemployment is tough. The worry about money and career uncertainty are real challenges. I’ll make space for these feelings and care for myself instead of bottling them up.”

“I’m hurting after the breakup. Missing my ex and feeling loneliness, grief, anger, and sorrow are valid. I won’t pressure myself to handle it ‘better’ overnight.”

Focusing on the body first can sometimes help words flow more easily

Putting too much pressure on yourself can backfire, while accepting your thoughts and feelings without judgment is linked to better mental health. Remember, seeking professional support is essential for issues like suicidal thoughts or substance misuse.

Take action first, pep talk afterward

If you’re struggling with motivation, try ‘leapfrogging’ straight to the behavior, like exercising or starting a task, regardless of how you feel. Research shows behavior often precedes motivation. This approach, called ‘behavioral activation,’ involves planning activities aligned with your goals, like scheduling gym visits on your calendar. Focus on physically getting there, even for a minute, then praise yourself for the action to reinforce it.

Moving your body can also help shift your perspective and access a different mental state. Try exercise, walking, or meditation to tune into body sensations. Repeat pep talk techniques that work for you regularly. Over time, it’ll become easier and more natural to encourage yourself via pep talks and embrace new possibilities.