Almost 20% of adults in America experience a mental health challenge. We’re a terribly stressed society. One way to improve your mental health is to accept reality as it is though. Sometimes in life we end up in situations that we just can’t change. Acceptance is all about fully accepting your reality in situations that are beyond your control. This doesn’t mean you approve of the situation, are giving up, or that it isn’t painful. You are still allowed to (and should!) feel however you feel, but by accepting that it is what it is, you give the problem less power over you, and you can begin to move forward. And practicing this acceptance has been shown to reduce feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety.
One way to cope is through the use of coping statements. These are sentences that remind you that different, healthier ways of thinking are possible. Repeating them (think mantra) can help you get through difficult moments – you can focus on just one or make a long list of your own. Some examples are:
- It is what it is.
- I can’t change what has already happened.
- I can accept things the way they are.
- I can only control my own actions and reactions.
If it helps, write your coping statements on Post-It notes and put them in places where you will see them multiple times a day, or set an alarm on your phone with a coping statement to pop up with a reminder every now and again.
When you’re fighting against reality, the first step in accepting reality is gaining awareness that you’re resisting it. It may seem like this would be easy to spot, but there are actually a lot of subtle ways that people push against reality. If you’re feeling bitter or resentful, wishing things were different, or thinking about how life isn’t fair, you might be fighting reality.
Learning to spot that, and to practice your coping strategies, takes…well, practice. It’s a great way to deal with difficult situations that we just can’t control. It takes time though, and don’t be hard on yourself if you fail. Start small with simple situations, and build from there. For example, curse the moon when traffic is at a standstill. Then, take a deep breath, relax your shoulders, and say, “this isn’t something I can control.” It might be awkward at first, but don’t let that stop you.
If you have a grandmother or mother of a certain age, she might have taught you this very skill when you were small and you didn’t even realize it. For example, sirens can be stressful for people. My grandmother always had us say a prayer for whoever was driving and might be riding in the emergency vehicle when we heard sirens. It was a way for a little kid to process that anxiety and help us realize that we couldn’t do anything about it other than pray. Pretty simple, right? If you look back over the course of your years, you might find similar instances of this sort of acceptance of reality. Reinstitute those! It make make you healthier.