Acceptance, as a topic and as an experience, is always present in my work: how to comfortably accept a sudden job loss in order to begin moving forward, how to accept a necessary career transition in order to begin plotting a new path, how to acknowledge and accept that we are experiencing burnout and then to commit ourselves to discovering personal solutions, how to accept that we have no idea what educational or career path we want to pursue after high school and thus to be open to taking a gap year.
From the outset of COVID, I have witnessed and listened to my clients grapple with acceptance, while simultaneously experiencing the many feelings that accompany the uncertainty that a pandemic creates. Accepting working from home (the psychologist Esther Perel more accurately calls it, "working with home"), accepting a job lay-off or job loss, accepting that the last few months of high school or the start of first year University is now online, accepting the inability to socialize with family, friends, and colleagues, accepting a new social reality and being even more mindful of our individual and collective health and welfare.
How can we comfortably “hold” or tolerate the uncertainties that currently surround us, the contradictory feelings we are experiencing, while we also attempt to remain actively engaged in our lives, our work, our relationships? What role does acceptance play?
How do we integrate the adjustments, changes, and losses we are experiencing while also being mindful of and active in what we can control and create in our lives? What role does acceptance play?
Acceptance opens the door to possibility
Accepting the many changes currently taking place in our lives and daily routines due to COVID does not mean resignation to these changes or a complete loss of control. Are there serious challenges and losses? Absolutely. Are there uncomfortable adjustments to be made? Yes indeed. Has the pandemic exposed fissures in our social, economic, political and health care systems? Without a doubt.
Practicing acceptance - and it does take practice - allows us to re-gain some much needed energy and perspective on our feelings and experiences. This is especially valuable right now.
Acceptance helps to reduce the energy we are expending to minimize, deny, judge and/or fight against what we are experiencing.
Acceptance gives us the “internal” space to see, feel and create possible changes to our lives. This is the space that fosters resilience, attitudinal and emotional flexibility, compassion for ourselves and for others. This is the space where we can engage and contribute to possible change. This is the space where we can discover and experience meaning.
The practice of acceptance includes:
- not judging ourselves so harshly – we are currently caught between feeling we must be highly productive at this time and feeling self-critical when our motivation flattens. Acceptance means taking our feelings seriously – neither minimizing nor judging them – and recognizing the valuable information and insights they give us. The practice of offering ourselves a daily dose of self-compassion and extending that compassion and care to those around us helps.
- being aware of and monitoring our fluctuating energy and motivation. It is hard to manage our entire lives literally under one roof: to shift how we work, to become tutors for our children, to adapt to online classes and coursework, to have less space and less privacy, or to lose the daily companionship and fellowship of colleagues, fellow students and friends.
- actively implementing boundaries between the different areas of our lives. This is not always easy under one roof. We need to be flexible and creative in integrating appropriate, healthy and manageable strategies into our lives that also benefit us physically, psychologically and relationally.
- pulling back from the stress and anxiety of “what ifs” to being more present and connected to our lives. Being more present enables us to regain some personal agency and be active and decisive in creating and implementing any necessary changes in our lives, be they physical, emotional, or in our attitudes.
Acceptance creates the space for, and nurtures, resilience
When we look closely at our lives, at how we experience our lives and the world around us, and when we reflect, we gain valuable perspective. We can feel and see more clearly what is going on around us. What am I experiencing? What is needed? What is available to me? What kind of relational support and sustenance do I have around me? What can I do to self-soothe, to relax, to re-charge?
What is possible in this moment, during this day? Where can I be more creative, more flexible? What can be changed or adjusted in my life?
Britt-Mari helps her clients create fulfilling and flexible careers, navigate career transitions, and build personally meaningful approaches to stress and burnout. For more information or to schedule a consultation call, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org