For me a powerful part of my journey in life has been this concept of Radical Acceptance and its application. I have also found it to be a powerful experience for my clients as well. When we are experiencing emotions of discomfort or those that can just seem overwhelming at times such as anxiety, sadness, anger, shame, vulnerability etc.… we can have a tendency to react with fight and resistance. We push against the feelings. We generate critical self-talk about why we are feeling this way and why we shouldn’t be. We avoid, and the avoidance and resistance create other emotional experiences, thoughts, and behaviors that are more problematic then the initial emotion we had in the first place. So much energy goes into avoiding and pushing; its exhausting and unhelpful.
The paradigm of Radical Acceptance is that when we allow ourselves to lean into the emotion, feel the sensations that come up, and sit with the discomfort, and accept that we feel it even if we don’t like it we can move through the emotion.
I was in session the other day and explained the point of shame is not to not experience but to have shame resiliency and bounce back from the experience of shame. Shame is simply an emotion like all the others, but we usually really hate the feeling of shame (I mean who doesn’t it doesn’t feel great) but when we start resisting the emotional experience we usually create many other issues.
For example, I don’t want to feel this shame I have about not being good enough so I’m now going to avoid feeling that emotion by numbing via being really busy, drinking, eating, social media, television, or any other way we may avoid a feeling.
What would have happened if you had been able pause and sit with the emotion, identify, honor it, and then move on?
Radical Acceptance teaches us that we are worthy for simply existing. What a profound and different way of looking at ourselves. If I am inherently worthy than I am also worthy of all my emotions and experiences. I don’t have to fight them. I can be with them.
Radical Acceptance takes practice, self-compassion, and mindfulness. I usually recommend starting with a pause. When you become aware of an emotion that your feeling resistance against a good indicator could be critical self-talk hit pause.
Stop whatever you’re doing. Stop and take pause. If the pause is uncomfortable focus on your exhale breathe. If your exhale breath is uncomfortable focus on running furiously in spot (can be done seated) really pumping your arms until you can’t anymore and then focus on your exhale. Find your pause and scan for the emotion and identify it. Shame, fear, anxiety, anger, annoyed, etc...
Whatever the emotion call it out for what it is a feeling. Then try being quiet. Sometimes easier said then done but in the quiet is where we can really hear what our emotion is telling us. Don’t focus on how long you are pausing but just try it and see what happens. Perhaps it will allow you to not react in an unhelpful way and be able to honor your actual needs.
I am currently writing this as I sit on an airplane traveling to Ohio for a friend’s wedding. I wouldn’t describe myself as having flight anxiety but I can experience travel anxiety in regards to being on time, leaving the dogs, did I forget something?, what if my bags get lost?, and so forth which honestly is its own blog post. I do however work with many individuals who do struggle with flight anxiety and fear of flying. In fact, some studies estimate as many as 25% of Americans identify with a fear of flying.
What makes flying so scary? Honestly a lot of things. Of course, there is the “What if the plane crashes?” but there are other smaller less obvious fears or thoughts that make flying uncomfortable. For instant: I can’t get off and there is nowhere to go, it’s a small tube in the air, its crowded, I am not in control at all, and what happens if I have a panic attack and I have no where to go? These are just to name a few.
I recently was talking with a friend about how unnatural flying in a metal tube feels and that never in the history of humans have we taken flight until the last century. I must admit they have a point. Talk about the unknown here and why that would make someone feel anxious.
Flying is very much a part of our 21st century society and cultural. Many of us live a distance from family, travel for work, or have honest to gosh wanderlust and want to travel and see the world. So, what do you do if you have a fear of flying? Many will avoid traveling, cancel flights last minute, drink alcohol, feel increased irritability and stress, or have panic attacks on flights. Many clients that I work with come to me these experiences and with this exact question, I need to get on airplane how do I do it?
I generally take what therapists call a bottom up approach to anxiety which means starting with the physical body sensations and feelings then work our way up to the unhelpful thinking. Anxiety is felt extremely strongly in our bodies and if you have ever experienced a panic attack that goes without saying. It doesn’t always do a lot of help to come up with a bunch of positive thoughts if you’re literally jumping out of your skin and “freaking” out. With the bottom up approach, we start with the body, which is usually a great place to start to find some relief from the physical sensations and allow your brain the ability to even put logical and rational thought into place.
I usually have clients create a 911 Flight Tool Kit
It’s a list of tools and resources they have and have practiced before the flight. I always recommend practicing these tools during more neutral experiences so that when you need them the most they are not brand new ideas or sensations.
This is one of my favorite grounding techniques that I use and I also teach clients to use.
Fly without Fear Itunes Album
download this guided meditation album which has meditations for the moment you get to the airport till the plane lands
As always reaching out to a medical professional or a therapist is always recommended. I hope you find this to be helpful.
If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen me mention something I call a Back to Basic Day. I’ve posted about it multiple times and thought it was finally time to share it on here, in a little bit more depth.
What is a Back to Basic Day? It isn’t anything fancy or even a quick fix,but I have found when we strip away all the shoulds and must dos out of life we can get back to the basics and find a gentle reset for self. I recommend, a Back to Basic Day when someone has found themselves beginning to feel melancholy, lack of motivation, increased anxiety, healing from illness or injury, major life transition, or simply experiencing an increase of overwhelm.
When we are experiencing any of the things listed above, it can seem almost brutal to try and go about your “normal day” checking things off your to do list. You might even find yourself so frazzled your running circles around yourself not getting anything accomplished or simply frozen unable to do anything except run through worries and to-do lists in your mind.
It is in these moments, that stripping away all these shoulds, musts, and obligations that we can bring a calming focus to what is helpful right now and what do I really need to be doing? The answer is, take care of me.
Simply put, pick 3-4 things that are Basic Needs for you to be able to function and begin to feel better. I always recommend:
A Back to Basic Day is exactly that it is coming back to the basic needs we all have. It is essentially a permission slip to get back to what you need to function. Everything else will wait. I don’t usually recommend doing more that a few days of these in a row. If you are finding that you’re not feeling better after a few days of going back to the basics it is usually an indicator that you need a little bit more support. Reach out to a professional whether it be therapist, physician, or non-diet dietician trained in intuitive eating and disorder eating.
We all can benefit from a Back to Basic Day and grant ourselves gentle loving compassion. We are not all superwomen and men. Life can be wonderful and rewarding while also demanding and hard. The great paradox it seems. Be kind to self and you will be amazed at what you can do.
Hello! Welcome to my Blog on self care . I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Registered Yoga Teacher.