Anxiety is a perfectly normal part of being human. It helps us regulate our bodies during times of danger and allows us to react during emergencies. General anxiety, though, is when your body’s fight-or-flight response triggers without the danger. Coping with anxiety is challenging. Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) aims to make coping a little easier.
Also called acceptance-based behavior therapy, this form of cognitive behavior therapy targets anxiety in a unique way. It’s largely based on the idea of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is essentially the idea of, “It is what it is.” It’s an invitation to accept reality as it is instead of focusing on how to change or alter reality.
3 Ways Acceptance Helps You Cope with Anxiety
1. It allows you to better understand your triggers
You can use your anxiety to empower yourself. By understanding that anxiety is your mind’s way of saying you feel threatened, you can more closely examine your triggers. Using your anxiety as a tool to notice why, where, and when it shows up, you can better your understanding of your mental space.
Allowing anxiety to work as it is intended to, as a protective mechanism, can help you feel safer. You can acknowledge the anxiety without it overtaking you. Then you can address the perceived threat and find the support you need to overcome it.
2. Finding balance becomes easier
When you know your triggers and limitations, you can better structure your life in a way that is compassionate toward your anxiety. Acceptance allows you to further explore your day-to-day tasks and activities. If your workload is too much, and your anxiety responds to that, it gives you an opportunity to change your workload. You can ask yourself questions like:
- What tasks can I delegate to accommodate my anxious mood?
- Are there any meetings that I can schedule once every two weeks instead of weekly?
- Will turning my camera off during the Zoom call help curb my anxiety?
- Who can swap presentation times with me so I don’t have to be the first person to present?
Finding your boundaries and establishing them is an acceptable coping strategy. This kind of balance takes communication.
3. You can turn anxiety into motivation
As someone with anxiety, it’s possible to find yourself overwhelmed quickly and unexpectedly. You can learn to navigate that overwhelm and use it to motivate you. A real-world example of this might be someone who works within tight deadlines. Anxiety can often lead to procrastination. The self-awareness you develop with radical acceptance can shape this into a tool.
If you work under tight deadlines and find yourself procrastinating on a task, that’s worth acknowledgment. You can identify that procrastination as anxiety. Once you’ve acknowledged that the reason you are procrastinating is because of anxiety, the deadline becomes easier to face. You can use compassionate self-talk to encourage yourself to complete the assignment. Some example phrases are:
- Finishing the task sooner instead of procrastinating will lessen the stress as the deadline gets closer.
- If I do half of the task now, I can do the other half before the deadline and still have plenty of time for my other work.
- Getting started is the hardest part. If I can find a place to start, I can work on the task one small piece at a time.
Learning how to accept life as it is can be a difficult task. Reaching out to a mental health professional can make the process easier. A professional therapist can help you learn coping strategies to deal with your anxiety. We can also help you establish methods of practicing radical acceptance.