Opportunity & Radical Acceptance: You do not necessarily have to like, agree with or condone what is happening in your life, you just have to accept that it is happening.
Out of every crisis rises opportunity. First let me say that this concept is essential and it is not easy! I don’t expect you to finish reading this post and only see rainbows and unicorns. Rather, my hope is that you can outweigh some of the negativity we are all experiencing with some positivity.
In the last two months our society has been side swiped by COVID-19. Nothing seems the same, it’s hard to find normalcy. We constantly feel like we are over and underreacting at the same time. Our moods swing like a pendulum, one minute we think we can handle it and the next we feel the world is ending. The antidote to swings like these is focusing on what we can control, what we are grateful for and look at problems as possibilities. So how do we start practicing that? You can begin this practice with the tips below, starting with the guiding philosophy of Radical Acceptance!
1. Radical Acceptance: This means that you do not necessarily have to like, agree with or condone what is happening in your life, you just have to accept that is happening. To do this, we stop judging the situation so that our emotions can settle and we can see more clearly what to do next. Otherwise, our emotionality and judgements can be paralyzing and keep us from living in the moment. The next time you catch yourself wishing things were different, try replacing your wishful thoughts with objectively observing your situation, identify and honor the resulting emotion, let go of fighting what is occurring and step into accepting that it is happening. See how this moves you into a higher level of consciousness and into a less reactive state of mind.
2. Gratitude: When something is taken away from us, we reawaken to its value. Consider a stuffy nose. When you can breathe normally you probably don’t contemplate how grateful you are for your breath or how much easier life is when you can breathe. It’s not until you have a stuffy nose that you tap into gratitude for your breath. There are a lot of similar opportunities happening right now. Consider finding gratitude in being able to go to the grocery store, finding toilet paper, being able to FaceTime with your elderly grandparents, still having an income or being able to homeschool your kids.
3. Hobbies: I’m sure hobbies do not seem like an important part of life right now. However, hobbies help us feel masterful, increase our confidence, distract us from overly focusing on COVID and calm our nervous system. Maybe you haven’t had time in the past to explore your interests or develop a hobby, so now is your time! Since most hobby stores are closed right now, consider using opportunities you have at home like cutting a bud off of one of your plants and try sprouting it, finding an old sewing kit and learning to stitch a pillow or refurbish an old piece of furniture!
4. Self-reflection/ slow down: How often do we say we are so busy we can’t catch our breath? Routinely, I hear my clients tell me they haven’t had time to do their therapy homework. Our life before COVID was exceptionally fast paced and most of us lost sight of what it means to stop and smell the roses. Despite the difficulty of moving from overdrive to low gear, try anyways! Use this less demanding time to slow down, drink your tea to drink your tea, not to finish it. Sit for a moment and enjoy how nicely you decorated your living room, notice the smile on your husband’s face when he sees you, notice how patient your wife is with your children or walk outside and simply look at the sky and take in a deep breath of fresh air. It’s okay to be bored, it’s okay to not be “productive” right now. Try moving from human doing to human being!
5. Clean your garage: When you’re struggling to slow down, instead of binge watching Netflix (which is so easy to do!), consider doing your “later” items. We all have a list of things we have to do right now and a list for down the road. The right now list is less demanding for most of us so try ticking off some of your to do later boxes. This will help you feel productive in this unproductive time meanwhile getting things done around your home. Empty some of the weight you’ve been carrying around in the back of your mind by unloading your to do list! You might even find ways to support your local community through donations when cleaning your pantry or closet!
6. Self-care: In the same vein as slowing down, self-care is often pushed to the back burner or, as I have realized about myself recently, I try to use the crumbs of energy I have left over at the end of the day to take care of myself. This unstructured time is a great opportunity to try new morning routines or asking yourself what you need before considering other demands. Also realize that self-care is a spectrum ranging from simple care, such as brushing your teeth, to sophisticated care, such as conserving energy for yourself by saying no to more things in your life.
7. Feeling surf: Naturally, we all have intense emotions right now. Typically our lives are so full of distractions it is easy to escape and cover over a feeling. Now that we have more time to be with ourselves, consider working towards embodiment: a conscious state of being present with everything happening within you. When you notice a feeling of anxiety, try bringing an open and kind curiosity to it. What does it feel like in your body? What memories does it pull up? What behaviors does it want to make you engage in? And rather than avoiding the feeling, use your breath and observation skills to sit with it as it rises like a wave and falls back into the ocean. You’ll discover that you are more capable than you think you are at handling unpleasant emotions.
8. Discover your internal motivators: What makes you tick? More often than not we do things to please other people or to make sure we don’t let other people down. With socializing off the table for the most part, take this time to investigate your motivations. Consider reflecting on what you are spending your time doing. Why are you doing it? Is it for you or for someone else? Which of your values back your decision making? What means the most to you in life? This is the perfect time to lean in real close and learn who you are on a deeper level. Then, when the quarantine is over, you can start rebuilding your life based on your values, beliefs and passions!
At the end of this pandemic, do you want to look back and think “wow, I spent a lot of time fighting what was happening and missed out on opportunities” or think “wow, what a great opportunity that was to refocus, slow down and try things out my way.”? I’m thinking I’ll take the latter. So I invite you to join me in letting go of the resistance, anger and fear this pandemic has on us and move into the warm sunlight of radical acceptance and gratitude!