Acceptance: Making People into Trees

Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert) expresses acceptance of self and others with a beautiful metaphor:

 

“…when you go out into the woods and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You appreciate it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn’t get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don’t get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree.

The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying “You’re too this, or I’m too this.” That judging mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are.”

Remember, emotional and cognitive skills take practice just as physical skills do. Many of us have years or decades of practice in thinking destructively and judgmentally! So practice a little self-acceptance today, and then again tomorrow, and the next day…

 

Self-Care: It’s Okay Not to “Optimize” Yourself

Many people have been making New Year’s resolutions, and some are even sticking to them! For most people, however, they won’t last very long.

It’s completely valid to want to make changes to yourself and to your life, but pay attention to what you are telling yourself in the process. You may be telling yourself that you will finally be acceptable if you can meet your goals. The “if” lets us know that if we don’t meet our goals, we are not acceptable. We often believe (consciously or not) that there are only two choices: exceptionally fantastic, or…crap. (To state it plainly.)

Guess what? You are already acceptable! You are wonderful and miraculous! Yes, even on your bad days.

The idea that you aren’t good enough unless you are the best of the best is an expression of perfectionism, and perfectionism is a life-killer, a progress-killer, a killer of the good. We seek progress, not perfection.

Instead of telling yourself that you “must improve,” try the dialectical approach:

“I am already acceptable as I am, AND I would like to try doing this a different way to see if I like that better.” (No “buts” allowed!)

This makes it clear that it is a choice you are undertaking, rather than a “should.” Also, it is a way of making a choice to try change but without browbeating, judging, and criticizing yourself–all things that, ironically, make change much more difficult.

If you accept yourself as already okay, then you are free to try changing things all year around, as the opportunities present themselves. But–this is key–you don’t have to “improve” yourself in order to be acceptable.

While we’re here talking about accepting yourself, here is a great article about expressing your vulnerabilities:

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Checking In With Yourself

When you’re feeling really depressed, upset, or anxious, it can be hard to come up with ways to understand what is happening with yourself, let alone what to do about it. Even the most basic self-care can be hard to remember when your executive functioning is down.

This is a very helpful list to have handy for those times when you are unable to generate the energy to remember how to support yourself:

 

Trained Volunteers Offer Crisis Support Via Text

While hotlines are not a substitute for clinical care, they can be a caring connection that may help someone having any sort of crisis or trouble to figure out how they’re feeling, what’s going on,  and what they want to do about it. They can also offer referrals if needed. Because so many people use text as a means of communication, now there are text hotlines for crises:

Frequently asked questions answered by Crisis Text Line:

https://twitter.com/CrisisTextLine/status/1067459982143221765

 

What To Do Until Your Therapy Appointment

Even when there is not an emergency situation, it can be hard to cope with crisis or distress while you are waiting for your appointment in a few days or weeks. But taking care of yourself as best you can until then will help a great deal.

Talk to friends / family members: Share your feelings and thoughts with someone you feel comfortable with and who cares for you.

Take a bath / shower: Taking a bath or shower can calm you down and soothe you.

Exercise / take a walk: Go outside or go to the gym to exercise and release the tension.

Write: Take some time to write about how you feel and how you make sense of things.

Practice relaxation techniques: Listen to a relaxation track on YouTube or similar, and follow the directions.

Eat healthfully: It is important to take care of your basic needs. Fueling your body with healthy food is one of them.

Practice meditation: There are many different kinds of meditation. One of the ways to practice meditation is to be still and observe the sensations in your body from head to toe. If troublesome thoughts come into your mind, be aware of them but let them go. Try the free guided sessions at Headspace if a structured approach works for you.

Breathe deeply: You can practice deep breathing in any setting. Try to inhale deep into your abdomen.

Get enough sleep: If you are tired you will not be able to think clearly. Sleeping 7-8 hours per night can rejuvenate you and help you think clearly. Practice meditation or take a bath to help with difficulties falling asleep.

Attend to your spiritual needs: During hard times, attending to your spiritual needs by attending or observing services, meeting with others, or praying may help to comfort you.

Set several small goals for the day and work on them: Focusing on one thing at a time will help keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

Structure your time: Re-evaluate your priorities. Time management isn’t just about “how much can I squeeze in” but rather “what can I let go of.” Include things that are meaningful and comforting for you, not just a bunch of obligations.

Accept help: When loved ones offer help, try accepting some instead of expecting to do everything on your own. Also, remind the anxious part of yourself that you are no longer helpless and you will take care of yourself.

 

– Dr. Liz

  • (Adapted from materials used at Michigan State University Counseling Center)
  • For additional practical self-care measures, try this helpful list!