“Why does this always happen to me?” “Ugh. I should have planned better!” “This isn’t fair!” “Nothing ever goes my way.”

It’s easy to get caught up in negative feelings when something doesn’t go our way. We get stuck in a loop of self-blame, feeling depressed or angry, which can lead to health issues or harmful relationship patterns over time. It’s time to break the loop! Instead of the blame game, try radical acceptance.

What is radical acceptance?

Radical acceptance is a skill we can develop to better manage emotions during distressing times. Essentially, you learn to accept a situation for exactly what it is, sit in your feelings of discomfort and redirect your energy to more productive feelings and actions.

It sounds simple but can take practice to master. You can practice it yourself over time, or you can work with a doctor or therapist to help you master the skill.

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Radical acceptance does not mean you avoid or push emotions aside. It means acknowledging your emotions and feeling them wholly in your mind, body and soul, without judgement.

Practicing radical acceptance

Let’s say you planned a large outdoor event and as the day approaches, you see there’s rain in the forecast. You are probably feeling frustrated, disappointed, or even hopeless and angry. To practice radical acceptance, you’d follow these simple steps.

Step 1: Look at the facts. Remind yourself that the situation simply is what it is, and there is a logical reason for it. It is going to rain on the day of my event. Weather is unpredictable. I knew this was a possibility.

 Step 2: Avoid judgement. Try not to think in terms of good or bad, should or shouldn’t. Imagine what it would sound and feel like to truly accept your reality for what it is. It’s going to rain. I will have to come up with a solution for my event. Then start to search for solutions as if you’ve already accepted your reality.

Step 3: Be open to your emotions. Acknowledge your natural feelings and allow yourself to feel them as they come up. I’m so upset that the weather isn’t cooperating. I wanted it to be a beautiful event and now it’s ruined. I’m disappointed. How does this make you feel emotionally and physically? I feel tense, my jaw is clenched, I feel anxious.

Step 4: Practice acceptance. Process those feelings and then reframe your mindset to productive thoughts.1 I’m disappointed…but instead of sulking about it, I can call a nearby venue to see if they have space for our event. If that doesn’t work, I can reschedule my event and it will be OK.

Step 5: Keep practicing! Like all useful skills, radical acceptance requires repetition to successfully use when negative feelings arise.2

It is important to note that radical acceptance can be harmful in certain situations. If you’re experiencing abuse, harassment or feel stuck in a dangerous relationship or environment, seek help from appropriate mental health professionals or authorities. You do not need to accept abusive or dangerous situations for what they are.

Over time, the radical acceptance technique can be a great tool in your mental health toolbox.

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Remember that stress affects your mind and body. Use the healthcare professionals and digital tools from Teladoc Health to improve your overall health and decrease stress.

Published July 8, 2024


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