Arriving at Acceptance

Panic Away

Panic Away Program

Get Instant Access

Once or twice each winter, we take a drive up to the crest of New Mexico's Sandia Mountains, elevation 10,000 feet. We like to tromp around in the snow and sometimes go cross-country skiing. We bring our dogs, and they appear to love the snow more than we do.

The parking lot at the crest is usually plowed, but the last time we went, we managed to get stuck in a snowbank. I mean really stuck. As the wheels began spinning uselessly, I (Charles) uttered a few choice words of frustration. Laura reminded me that we had written about this very subject (getting stuck in the snow) in our last book, Depression For Dummies. She said, "Remember, you have to accept where you're at to get where you want to go."

So, I took my foot off the accelerator and allowed the car to rock back. I gently applied the gas again until the tires started to spin, and once again, I took my foot off the accelerator. I continued rocking the car until we finally escaped from the snow.

No, this isn't a lesson in how to extract your car from a snowbank. Rather, the message here is that in order to move forward, it's important to ease up and accept where you're at for a moment. When the time is right, you can gently push ahead.

Are you wondering what acceptance has to do with anxiety and depression? Well, everyone feels anxious or sad now and then. Recognizing and accepting those feelings is important because if you absolutely can't stand to be worried or down, then you'll inevitably feel more upset when you experience these normal feelings. In other words, you get more upset and distressed about getting distressed. That's clearly not very helpful.

Don't get us wrong; we want you to feel good most of the time. But as far as we know, the only humans who don't feel some anxiety or sadness are, well . . . dead. Besides, if you don't know sadness, it's difficult to know what happiness is. Without worry, you wouldn't appreciate calm. Accept a certain degree of difficult emotions as part of your life.

One way to accept a few negative feelings is to view them objectively. Imagine that you're writing a report on the experience of anxiety or depression. To accurately express the experience, you need to acquire a dispassionate understanding of the essence of your emotions. In other words, observe and accept your feelings without judgment. As you do, you'll likely see that your distress lessens. Whether you're depressed or anxious, accepting the emotional angst dispassionately will help you handle your bad feelings without becoming more upset. Read through the following example, and try out the exercise when you're feeling troubled.

Kelsey needs to renew her driver's license, so she runs over to the Motor Vehicles Department on her lunch hour. Although there's only one clerk on duty, she's pleased to see only four people ahead of her. Then, the man at the front of the line starts arguing with the clerk. The argument continues, and the supervisor is summoned. As the discussion at the front of the line drags on, Kelsey looks at her watch and starts to worry about getting back to work on time. She recalls the Accepting Angst Dispassionately exercise (see Worksheet 8-9) and runs through it in her mind.

Worksheet 8-9 Accepting Angst Dispassionately

1. Write about your current physical feelings. Is your stomach upset? Are you sweating? Is your heart pounding? Do your shoulders feel tight? Describe everything going on in your body in objective terms.

Huh, I'm jiggling and rocking back and forth. I can feel the tension in my shoulders. My breathing is becoming fast and shallow. My heart is even starting to race. How interesting.

2. Notice fluctuations in these physical feelings. Over time, feelings vary in intensity. Are the waves long or short? How high do they go at their peaks and how low at their ebbs?

Now that I'm paying attention, I can see that these feelings go up and down every few minutes; they aren't constant. As I'm observing them, they actually seem to be lessening.

3. Predict how long you will have these physical feelings. An hour, a minute, a day, a year?

They probably won't last more than however long I'm here.

4. Notice with dispassion the thoughts that go through your mind. Imagine those thoughts floating away on clouds. Write them down and say goodbye as they float away.

It's interesting to notice my thoughts. I'm thinking things like, "I'm going to be late and that's horrible," and "That stupid man; who does he think he is anyway?" It's funny, but as I listen to these thoughts objectively, they don't seem so important.

5. Predict how long you will have these thoughts. An hour, a minute, a day, a year?

They're already floating away as I zero in on them.

The next time you notice unpleasant feelings, work through the exercise in Worksheet 8-10. If you happen to have this book in front of you at the time, write your reactions down immediately. If you don't have your workbook on hand, recall as many of these questions as you can and answer them in your mind. The main goal is simply to adopt an objective perspective that describes your feeling without judging it.

Worksheet 8-10 Accepting Angst Dispassionately

1. Write about your current physical feelings. Is your stomach upset? Are you sweating? Is your heart pounding? Do your shoulders feel tight? Describe everything going on in your body in objective terms.

2. Notice fluctuations in these physical feelings. Over time, feelings vary in intensity. Are the waves long or short? How high do they go at their peaks and how low at their ebbs?

3. Predict how long you will have these physical feelings. An hour, a minute, a day, a year?

4. Notice with dispassion the thoughts that go through your mind. Imagine those thoughts floating away on clouds. Write them down and say goodbye as they float away.

5. Predict how long you will have these thoughts. An hour, a minute, a day, a year?

1 Being stuck in a traffic jam. 1 Waiting in long lines. 1 Sitting through boring meetings. i Moving through crowds. i Suffering through travel delays.

The point of this exercise is to accept the way you feel in the moment without jumping to evaluation or judgment. Think of yourself as a scientist interested in objective observation and description. This exercise is particularly useful when you find yourself in frustrating, unavoidable predicaments, such as i Waiting for someone who's late. i Meeting a deadline. i Getting rejected. i Receiving criticism. i Feeling afraid.

i Taking a risk such as giving a speech. i Getting sick.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Free Yourself from Panic Attacks

Free Yourself from Panic Attacks

With all the stresses and strains of modern living, panic attacks are become a common problem for many people. Panic attacks occur when the pressure we are living under starts to creep up and overwhelm us. Often it's a result of running on the treadmill of life and forgetting to watch the signs and symptoms of the effects of excessive stress on our bodies. Thankfully panic attacks are very treatable. Often it is just a matter of learning to recognize the symptoms and learn simple but effective techniques that help you release yourself from the crippling effects a panic attack can bring.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment