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The Power of Acceptance: Unwind and De-Stress

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Be present.  Let go of fighting.  Acknowledge and tolerate what is.  At a crossroads, choose to listen to reality and commit over and over again to doing just what is needed in each stressful situation.  Don’t give up, try to fix everything or refuse to tolerate the moment.  Simply be and allow the world to be as it is.

DBT acceptance skills include specific activities for becoming more accepting, as well as principles for understanding and accepting reality.  The activities focus on how to get your body into a more calm and relaxed state, which will have a calming effect on your emotions and thoughts.  The basic principles are designed to help you let go of fighting reality and to choose to accept and respond to the situation as it is, not as you want it to be.

Getting Your Body in a More Accepting State

Our bodies and our minds work together.  It’s impossible to completely separate the two.  If we’re worried about something our bodies will respond to our worry thoughts.  Everyone experiences stress differently, but stress and worry often cause our bodies to become tense, nervous, jittery or breathless.

On the other hand, if our bodies are jittery, say from too much coffee, our minds will respond to that jumpy feeling and will interpret it as stress or anxiety.  In this case, our minds have responded to our physical state.

Intense stress and anxiety triggered by unexpected or overwhelming circumstances are accompanied by intense physical sensations.  If you’re experiencing stress and anxiety, your body is also experiencing stress and anxiety.  Sweating, jumpiness, having a lump in your throat, feeling breathless, muscles tensing, getting that heaviness in your stomach and getting cold are all physical sensations associated with stress and anxiety.

It’s extremely difficult to focus on identifying, acknowledging and accepting what we cannot change in life if we’re in a state of high arousal.  Feeling stressed makes you want to cry or scream.  When you’re stressed you’re more likely to yell.  And extreme stress and anxiety makes you want to avoid what you’re afraid of.

The first step in accepting, tolerating and surviving stressful circumstances is to get your body into a calmer and more accepting state.  Slowing your physical response will slow your mental response, as well.  If you’re ruminating or have racing thoughts, changing your physical state will change your mental state.

There are many relaxation techniques designed to calm the body.  If you have one that works for you, you can use that.  I will describe techniques in upcoming posts that are specifically effective in getting your body into a more accepting attitude.

Categories: DBT, Skills
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10 Comments to The Power of Acceptance: Unwind and De-Stress

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  2. sunflower55
    June 17, 2010 3:50 pm

    The Serenity Prayer states:
    G*D, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
    The courage to change the things I can;
    And the wisdom to know the difference.

    I believe that is where I have the most difficulty.
    Being raised in the sixties, a time of believe in our ability to do things, (can-do-it); a time of transformation – for good or bad, depending on how you view it, (personally, I believe society is better as a result); and a time of HOPE in a better future as a direct result of our actions to make change, I find it hard to accept that we – WE – don’t have the ability to change that which is WRONG!

    Consequently, when I hear, “just accept what is,” my first response is, “HELL NO!”

    Yes, I do know I cannot single handedly change the world, lol! And yes, I know that when my boss tells me to do something, even if I know it’s wrong, I have to do it. I can have a discussion about it later if I want with him/her.

    But, I do get highly stressed about all the things going on, about which others REFUSE to participate in the correction of. No, I can’t change things by myself. It DOES take a community. But, the apathy is pathetic. And these very people will sit and complain — and continue to do NOTHING! Even when shown the way!

    I’m a history teacher. And the unwillingness to get involved in our collective future is widespread, from middle aged folks to the youngsters I teach at the high school level. I don’t understand it and, I cannot accept it. It’s our duty as citizens. It’s our responsibility.

    The acceptance of things we *can* change is a cop out of those responsibilities of citizenship. And it’s wide spread. And that’s why we’re living with the corruption we do today.

    G*D, give me the courage to change the things I can. Amen.

    Peace!

    • Christy Matta, MA
      June 17, 2010 4:43 pm

      You make good points. I hope that you don’t confuse the concept of acceptance, that I’m talking about, with giving up. As I’m discussing it, acceptance is the first step in change. It is impossible to change something like discrimination, for example, if you don’t accept that it is occuring. When I talk of acceptance, I mean facing those realities that make us uncomfortable and that we want to avoid or pretend are not true. Abraham Lincoln abolished slavery, but from my understanding of history (admittedly not extensive), he accepted the political obstacles he faced and approached them strategically and ultimately effectively. I hope that’s helpful in clarifying the concept of acceptance as I have intended to present it. It means not cutting off your nose despite your face because you’re angry, but instead doing what is needed and effective in a situation.

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  5. sunflower55
    June 18, 2010 6:55 am

    Yes, that does clarify. And I think that the double use of the word, “accept,” leads to the problem I have had over many years here.

    For example, my son is a heroin addict. I “accept” the *fact* that it is so. I don’t like it, but, it’s a fact, and I can’t change it – only he can stop using heroin. He’s 30, and he’s been using since he was 16 years old. No denying those facts. This is an external reality.

    However, I don’t *accept* that he *does* heroin! I love my son. I don’t want him to die a horrible death, nor do I want him to continue to live the horrible life of an addict. This is, on the other hand, an internal reality.

    And here’s one of the times that the external and internal collide. The larger community does “accept” his addiction. They couldn’t care less if he dies. They throw him in jail for petty theft, done to support his habit, over and over. Yet, never once has this same society provided him with the needed resources to overcome his addiction – a treatment program and mental health care for his diagnosed bipolar disorder.

    As I commented in my first post, I cannot *accept* that the larger community will complain constantly, and do nothing about things that *can* be changed. Well, here’s a clear cut case that’s so simple. And it’s far, far less expensive than whare-housing dual diagnosed people in prison.

    So, I guess that’s where I get stuck on this issue of acceptance. It’s the difference between the two meanings of the external “acceptance” and the internal *acceptance.*

    I don’t know if this makes sense, but, it’s the best I can communicate thus far.

    Your last two paragraphs in your original essay remind me of Dr. William Glasser’s Control Theory, Reality Therapy program. In a nutshell, one proponent states that when we change what we’re doing, we change what we’re thinking. That, in itself, helps to bring me down from a stressful state. This time of year, it’s my garden that is my best therapy! Let me play in the dirt for hours at a time, and I’m happy once more. Stress be gone! :>)

    Thanks for your valuable feedback. One minor corrections, though. Lincoln didn’t free the slaves. The 13th Amendment did. ;>) (It’s the history teacher in me — sorry.)Your point is not lost, however.

    Peace!

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  7. Stressless06
    June 19, 2010 7:50 am

    From my own point of view, stress level varies to each and everyone of us. It is really up to us if we will take the challenge to step out and help ourselves and never let the effects of stress distract us from our more meaningful life. There are a lot of approaches, you will just have to chose which one would fit for you.

  8. Stressless06
    June 20, 2010 9:04 am

    One’s will power to accept things as it is can help a lot. There should be acceptance in situations that are out of your control. Choose to be relieve because nobody wants to live a life in stress.

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