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.