With the pandemic, we’ve all experienced changes in how we live, how we work, and socialize. This can be distressing. It’s human nature to prefer things stay just as they are if we like how they’re going. As a result we may find ourselves fighting change or bracing against it. But change is the nature of reality. If we go to war with change, we will lose.
Instead of fighting change, try radically accepting it. Radical acceptance is the practice of opening yourself up the current reality without judgments, positive, or negative. We are accepting simply the facts of a situation when we radically accept, not our interpretation of it. Radical acceptance doesn’t mean approval. It’s neither good, nor bad. It just is. For example, “My classes this semester are online not in person,” or, “A mask is required to enter the store.” Another caveat: we can only radically accept the present and the past, not the future. So, radical acceptance does not mean accepting “I’ll have to wear a mask forever” or “We’ll always be social distancing.”
Radical acceptance of change can be challenging because there’s a tendency of our minds to revert to non-acceptance, back to “This shouldn’t be,” “I don’t want this.” When this happens, turn again to acceptance.
By embracing change, we can not only decrease our distress, but also increase joy and other positive emotions. In other words, you can’t fully enjoy outdoor dining, if you refuse to accept there is no indoor dining. You can’t fully enjoy your home workouts, if you’re refuse to accept the gym is closed. Accepting change makes us more flexible and increases the likelihood we can respond effectively to the current reality.
So, the next time you find yourself fighting change, try some radical acceptance. You just may find it makes it easier to deal with the ever evolving nature of life in a pandemic.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.