Using Radical Acceptance to Cope with Difficult Times

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As many people have come to experience since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be hard to cope during difficult times. As we face challenges, whether it’s a pandemic, a struggling relationship, or other personal hardships, it’s important for our mental health and physical wellbeing that we find healthy ways to cope with our emotions. 

Radical acceptance is a distress tolerance skill that can be used during challenging times to better cope with and process our emotions.

What Is Radical Acceptance Therapy?

Radical acceptance is a distress tolerance skill that helps individuals facing difficult experiences and painful emotions accept these feelings and not resist what cannot be changed. While it’s typically taught within DBT, radical acceptance can be learned, and is effective, on its own. 

The purpose of radical acceptance is to help a person reduce unnecessary suffering and increase their ability to cope with difficult times. This should be done without judgement: the goal of radical acceptance is to identify a situation or a person’s response to the situation, but not to pass judgement on either. 

How Does It Help?

When we experience difficult or emotionally painful situations, we tend to take one of two responses: 

  1. Block the experience out
  2. Try to deal with the experience immediately and get through it quickly 

In both instances there is an underlying assumption: we should not be experiencing these difficult emotions. However, this assumption only leads to additional distress. It leads us into thinking things like, “this shouldn’t happen to me” or “this isn’t fair!”

By trying to block out our emotions or process them as quickly as possible, we only set ourselves up for future anger, resentment, guilt, or shame. This, in turn, can lead us to experience anxiety or even to suffer from depression.

Learning To Accept Reality 

Radical acceptance teaches us to acknowledge that painful experiences are simply a part of life. Rather than denying these experiences, we must accept their reality.

That doesn’t mean we have to be okay with difficult situations or that we should give up when faced with something unpleasant. However, refusing to accept reality will only exacerbate our distress.

It’s perfectly fine to not be okay with an experience, but we do ourselves additional harm if we become caught up in rejecting the experience. In doing so, we’re refusing ourselves the chance to fully process and overcome the experience.

Related: Learn about mindfulness and how to apply it to your everyday life

How To Practice Radical Acceptance To Cope 

Radical acceptance is a hard skill to master. Most of us are not used to accepting painful events or distress. That’s okay. Like most skills, this isn’t something any of us can perfect after a few tries.

Learning radical acceptance takes a long time, and should be thought of as a lifelong skill to practice and improve upon. 

Use Radical Acceptance Coping Statements 

One way that you can begin to incorporate radical acceptance into your daily life is through coping statements. These can be thought of as simple mantras to use whenever you experience something stressful, disappointing, or difficult. Some examples of coping statements include:

  • “This situation is only temporary.” 
  • “I’ve dealt with difficulties before and I can deal with this.”
  • “I can’t change what has already happened.”
  • “This feeling will pass and I will be okay.”
  • “I won’t stress over the things that I can’t change.”
  • “I can’t change the situation, but I can control how I respond to it.” 
  • “It’s okay to feel anxious/upset/mad. I can still deal with this effectively.”

These are only a few examples. They can be used as-is or as jumping off points to create your own mantras. Try practicing with different coping statements to find the ones that work well for you.

Related: learn how to cope with the emotional trauma of COVID-19

Getting Help For Mental Health and Emotional Distress

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that we all need help during challenging times. Skills like radical acceptance can make a positive impact in our lives. However, learning these skills and fully processing our feelings is difficult. Pent up, unprocessed emotions lead to anxiety, depression, and other common mood disorders that affect millions of Americans. That’s why it’s important to find professional help if you’re struggling with your mental health. 

At High Focus Centers, our team of clinicians and supporting staff understand the mental health challenges individuals face during stressful times. Our team is trained to use research-based, proven therapies, like radical acceptance and dialectical behavior therapy to help patients lead a healthier life. 

If you or someone you love is struggling, please contact us today to learn more about High Focus Centers’ mental health treatment services.