It’s difficult to shift focus in a time of crisis, especially when your plans unexpectedly change, or expectations are not met. You might have had vacation plans disrupted, birthdays and anniversary plans suspended, weddings and funerals canceled. It’s uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking to wonder when things might change when there aren’t many answers.
Instead of allowing these distressing feelings to burrow into your thoughts and get stuck, practicing “radical acceptance” can help you deal with the present situation with a sense of clarity and mindfulness. Practicing radical acceptance is to acknowledge and accept the present situation without ruminating or feeling trapped by the painful experience. Making an active choice to accept the situation, not accepting in defeat, but rather understanding there is no control over it but instead control over how you understand and process a situation.
How can you get there? One step is is embracing that things are the way they are. This doesn’t mean that you have to like the situation presented. In fact, you might be feeling angry, confused, or unsure. Recognizing how you are feeling about the situation without passing judgment on your emotions puts less pressure on yourself and allows you to just feel what you’re feeling. There is no right or wrong way to feel in a time of crisis, and by releasing that hold of expectations around how you’re supposed to react, you can start to refocus energy into taking care of yourself.
Another step is recognizing when we apply ‘shoulds’ or ‘what ifs’ to a situation and shifting focus back into the present moment. Denial is a normal reaction to the pandemic and the way your life has changed, but it can be a distraction from processing and problem-solving. By redirecting our thoughts from the things we cannot change, you can start to let go of the tension of an immovable situation and put stock into what we can control: our thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and coping strategies. Shifting your mindset can be difficult, but making the conscious decision to accept what is happening allows you to be patient and kinder to yourself.
Jamie Steiner, LCSW, is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you would like support in incorporating self-care into your life, contact Cobb Psychotherapy and see how therapy can help.