When life throws you a situation that you can’t change, do you fight it with all your might? Or fully accept your reality? I’ve been working on the latter over the past couple of years, and man, is it hard!
But… I’ve learned that accepting reality doesn’t mean you approve of the situation, you’re giving up, or that it isn’t painful. You’re still allowed to feel however you feel. The thing about accepting what’s happening is you give the problem less power over you and you can begin to move forward.
As part of Mental Health Month, here are seven tips on accepting reality from my partner, Mental Health America (MHA):
- Notice when you’re fighting against reality. The first step in accepting reality is being aware when you’re resisting it. A few subtle ways you might be pushing back against reality include, feeling bitter or resentful, wishing things were different, or thinking about how life isn’t fair.
- Remind yourself that you can’t change what has already happened. Before you can make peace with reality, you must acknowledge that there’s no going back to the way things were. This may be challenging and painful, but by identifying what you can and can’t control, you can turn your energy towards coping with the things you can’t change.
- Embrace your feelings. It’s okay if you’re angry, scared, overwhelmed, or lonely. Accepting reality includes everything that you’re feeling, too. When you accept these feelings and let yourself experience them without any judgement, you can work through them in a healthy way.
- Pretend that you’re accepting reality. Even if you’re still struggling to fully accept reality, think about what it would look like if you did. How would you act if you simply accepted things as they are? What would your next step be? Changing your behaviors and actions to reflect “pretend acceptance” can help you to actually shift your thoughts.
- Relax your body. If you’re pushing against the reality of your situation, there’s a good chance your body is tense. This is often associated with resistance and keeps your mind on high alert. Physically relaxing your body can help you feel more ready to accept things as they are. Try yoga, taking a hot bath or shower, deep breathing exercises, or getting a massage to help you relax.
- Use coping statements. These are sentences that remind you that it’s possible to think in different, healthier ways. Repeating them can help you get through difficult moments – you can focus on just one or make a long list of your own. Some examples are: I can’t change what has already happened. I can accept things the way they are. I can only control my own actions and reactions.
- Know that it takes practice. Radical acceptance is a great tool to cope with hard situations that we can’t control, but it can take a while before it comes easily. A good way to start is by trying it out in smaller situations, like when you’re stuck in traffic or your internet is acting up during a call. By practicing radical acceptance on a daily basis, it’ll be easier to use as a coping tool when tougher challenges come your way.
You can find more info about radical acceptance, plus a worksheet, by downloading the free Tools2Thrive toolkit from MHA here.