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Accepting feelings.

Hello Everyone,

Our next question comes from a person struggling with the physical sensations of anxiety.

He writes,

My biggest struggle is the physical feelings of anxiety. The adrenaline rush, hot flashes, tight chest, racing heart. I’m trying to “accept” these feelings and move through the day as normal but it can be exhausting. I really struggle with not letting myself analyze why I am feeling like this. The feeling is so uncomfortable and intense at times that it literally feels like I’m out of control. The harder I try to gain control, the worse it gets. The more I analyze, the worse it gets.

Any advice on “accepting” these feelings?

Another great question which has the answer in it. As usual, the key is the application process.  Acceptance is often an important aspect of feeling okay. Think about anytime you have “gotten over” something. You most likely reached a place of acceptance. Whenever we “accept” something we stop fighting with it.  I would venture to guess the reason you are feeling so exhausted is because you are still trying to explain “why” you feel this way. Analyzing your feelings can take you down so many paths and rarely if ever do you find relief.  Understanding and figuring out why is useful to a point.  However, it rarely effects change. Even after we know why, we are left with, “Now what?”.

In order to accept something we need to first decide we want to.  We also need to describe or define what it means to “accept”.  If we say acceptance means agreement or approval, we can create an inner conflict.  If I was abused I don’t want necessarily to accept/agree with the abuse.  With regard to accepting feelings, we might want to define this as acknowledging the feelings.  “Here are those feelings/thoughts again. And, I am going to focus on XXXX (something other than feeling anxious)”.  The goal is not to resist feeling or thinking certain things.  Remember, the more you resist something the more it will persist! The goal is to identify what you want to focus on.  I can feel anxious AND still take a walk, ride a bike, talk with someone, etc… In fact, movement and change of scenery are very powerful strategies to replace unwanted thoughts and feelings.  The idea of having a regular daily activity plan also tends to be very effective. Another key ingredient to acceptance involves our thoughts.  Keep in mind that we are talking to ourselves all the time.  We talk ourselves into things every day. Pretty much everything we do we have talked ourselves into. Keep in mind that many of these “decisions” our in nano seconds and not consciously thought through.  We don’t say to ourselves, “I am going to get out of my chair and go to the bathroom right now”. When we are struggling with unwanted thoughts and feelings it is important that we are intentional and mindful of our thought patterns.  Writing out a positive script to read and re-read can be useful in helping us focus on something besides physical sensations, emotions, or thoughts.

So to accept something keep in mind the following three key points. One, decide to accept. Two, define what it means to accept. And three, intentionally and mindfully focus on what you want to be thinking in order to achieve your goal of acceptance.

Best regards,

~ Dr. Lou

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