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The Power Of Acceptance To Relieve Stress

Written by: Justine Hebert Dinesen, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

One of the biggest sources of stress in our lives comes from things we have little influence on. That is to say the things we cannot change or know how to change. It can be facing serious sickness, having to deal with a difficult manager or not having found the right partner to start a family at a later age. Having little influence on things is very stressful as it leaves us feeling helpless. In this case, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to take ownership and voluntarily decide to accept what is stressing us to acknowledge the situation for what it is. Acceptance is not passivity, it's a choice.


And accepting difficult experiences which we do not have any control over helps us free-up mental space, stop overthinking and move on.

There are two types of stress factors. The things we can and want to do something about, and the things we cannot or do not want to change. Whereas the first type of stress factor is relatively easy to handle as it “only” requires us to take action so they no longer stress us out; it is more difficult when the source of our stress is something that we cannot do anything about.


The things we have little influence on can be significantly more stressful than the things we can have an impact on because they make us feel helpless or powerless. For people who like to be in control, it can be a very difficult feeling to live with. However, successfully managing stress requires us to be proactive, meaning to take leadership to improve our life for the best. You can be proactive in two ways; either by acting toward resolution, or by accepting things for what they are.


Accepting difficult experiences which we do not have any control over allows them to run their course and dissipate, while resisting them only makes them stronger. Trying to change a reality that we can’t control is a battle we know we will lose and it leads to feelings of bitterness, anger, and sadness. Accepting, on the other hand, helps us to be at peace, free up mental space, and enables us to move on.


Acceptance works to reduce stress because it helps us manage our emotions. The true source of stress in our life is not whatever particular thing we feel is stressing us out, it’s the emotion it creates within us. If we are aware of our emotions and if we acknowledge the way a particular experience makes us feel and then recognize that although we would like the situation to be different, that it is what it is. Then our stress dissipates.


Moreover, accepting what stresses us out helps us to stop focusing only on what’s wrong and to notice other feelings, sensations, and thoughts occurring at the same time, enabling us to see the bigger picture.


Acceptance is not passivity, it's a choice. You are proactive when you consciously and deliberately decide to accept a reality that you would prefer was different. When you practice acceptance, you can either accept the situation as it is for good if you know the conditions will never change for example, accept the hard reality of having lost a loved one; or set a stressful situation aside for a while if you know the situation might change at some time, enabling you to take action.


Temporarily accepting a difficult situation requires setting it aside for a while by putting it somewhere you can keep an eye on it, and where you can get it back if you need to. For example, one of my clients is currently working in a unit in a hospital where they lost 50% of their staff in the last year. Although she loves her job and colleagues, the working conditions have been so bad in the last year that she started suffering from stress. As the management is currently recruiting to improve the working conditions, we decided that she would give it an extra chance. So we agreed to set-up a date in half-a-year when she would need to quit her job if the conditions had not improved, and we described what specifically had to be improved. By setting this stress factor aside, my client immediately started feeling better.


Acceptance is not about acquiescing to our fate, though, like getting poor treatment from other people. It’s more about accepting our internal experience our thoughts and feelings which informs us about the impact of external circumstances on ourselves.


How can we accept what is difficult?


Accepting things as they are do not mean that we don’t wish they were different. It simply means that we acknowledge that we don’t have control over the situation, and it is what it is. Acceptance is a state of mind that you cultivate by recognizing the situation, identifying and acknowledging the emotions that are stressing you out, and just allowing it to be. Here are a few things you can do to help you accept a situation:


1. Identify and acknowledge that there is something you have difficulty accepting.

Notice when you are trying to deny or when you ruminate about things that can’t be changed. It may include thoughts like “This is unfair, it shouldn’t be this way!” or emotions like anger and frustration. You create stress for yourself when you deal with something difficult or painful by ruminating about it, finding others to blame, and generally telling yourself how terrible it is and how overwhelmed you are by it. When you do those things you are practicing non-acceptance. You are struggling against the situation rather than admitting to yourself that whatever is happening that’s just the way it is, and there is nothing you can do about it.


2. Let go of your expectations

It is not easy to let go of how you imagined something or wished things would be but it is a good way to feel better. Try to write down your expectations, read them through and acknowledge that unfortunately this is not your current reality.


3. Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed and practice self-compassion

It’s perfectly okay and understandable to be disappointed. These feelings are healthy. Accept the situation and also the fierce rejection of it at the same time. If you are affected by this situation, this would probably affect any other human being, so be kind to yourself as you would be to a friend.


4. Can I be at peace with this?

Rather than asking yourself, “can I accept this?”, you can ask yourself, “Can I accept this as it is?” Or, if the situation still can evolve, “can I agree that this is the way it is right now?” These pointers feel practical somehow.


5. Accepting that “it is what it is” and it may take time

You need to remind yourself that “it is what it is” and there is nothing you can do to change the way things are right now. You may need to repeat this or write it down multiple times “It is, what it is”. This process can take time and it’s okay. Be patient.


6. Practice gratitude

Although the situation is not how you would like it to be, try to see and write down the positive things that are present in your life. Try to focus on the good things and express gratitude towards them.


Nothing lasts forever: If you’re struggling to cope with any situation, it’s good to remind yourself that it’s only temporary. As painful as it may be, what you are going through now is only a phase. It can take time but it’s still worth gradually accepting everything for the sake of your own happiness and peace of mind.

 

Justine Hebert Dinesen, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Justine Hebert Dinesen is a certified and experienced Life and Stress Coach, speaker, and wellbeing consultant. Besides conducting one-on-one coaching online and in-person in Copenhagen, over the past several years, she has held numerous workshops and courses both inside and outside of Denmark. Justine herself experienced an extreme period of stress while working as a Bid Manager for a large renewable energy company, a personal experience that ultimately led Justine down a new and highly rewarding career path, informing and helping others to prevent or alleviate stress and its symptoms and consequences in their lives. Thanks to her English, French, and Danish fluency, she can reach a wide audience across borders, helping them attain goals, shift into new career paths, navigate difficult decisions, improve their self-esteem, and generally renew their spark for life.


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