man standing with arms open toward a sun setting showing acceptance
Adults, Covid-19, DBT

Acceptance Through the Pandemic

I find myself reflecting upon how different this year has been for me and for many that I know. The changes, the uncertainty, the losses experienced during the pandemic weight heavily in a way that complicates how I approach my normal year-end reflection. Understanding how difficult this year has been for so many of my loved ones and clients is part of the reason I decided to write about my own journey to acceptance through the pandemic.

I started this year as I have started all the others as far back as I can remember, with excitement and hope for growth. I’m not a New Year’s resolution person, as I discovered many years ago that resolutions don’t work for me because I tend to make adjustments frequently. I can share though, that I did have a list of ideas that I wanted to accomplish: improvements in my relationships and with my jobs, things I wanted, situations I was hoping to experience, all organized in a way that made sense to me.

I can also share I was on track when the pandemic hit and everything around me got paused.

PAUSED, halted, shoved aside: use whatever words make most sense to you.

I was there. Safe at home and yet not feeling safe at home. My paid employment transitioned seamlessly to virtual. I had resources, I experienced gratitude, I counted blessings. And just kept moving (figuratively of course because no one was moving very much when this all started).

I validated, problem solved, kept watch on my vulnerabilities… managed connections. All the skills I teach were in play on a daily basis.

It took the Fall parent workshop that I lead to push me out of my complacency.

The week I taught Radical Acceptance, specifically.

As I taught the skill, I found myself a little uncomfortable. That feeling of discomfort continued that night after group and I couldn’t seem to settle down. I didn’t sleep very well. Woke up the next morning still a bit uncomfortable.

radical acceptance rest on letting go of the illusion of control and willingness to notice and accept things as they are right now, without judging. - Marsha Linehan

It occurred to me that I might need a different skill. Fired up my mindfulness and turned it inward… after some Wise Mind searching, I slowly landed on how not ok I was.

Despite validation, problem solving, mindfulness, reframing of thoughts, I was tense and irritable. When I practiced accepting my tension and irritability, it felt like a whack-a-mole game… it wasn’t working.

I kept at it. Accepting what was happening each day and slowly while I continued to do the things required of me, an understanding began… 

This year has been a doozy. Every time I felt like I had some sort of new normal in place, change happened. It happened to all of us. Collectively, we’ve been treading in choppy waters for MONTHS. My new understanding includes acceptance that I tried to ignore what was going on and just muscle through. Until I couldn’t. Until the accumulation proved more than I was capable of handling.

So for the last four weeks, I have imagined accepting the changes and differences… how I don’t go to the grocery store and instead rely on others to pick my food for me; how I check for mail a few times each day and sort through it outside, leaving anything unnecessary in the trash can; how I keep count some days of how often I wash my hands…and how other days I’m oblivious to grocery store, mail and hand washing. These are just some of the small things. I have big things to accept as well, as I’m sure most of us have. 

As the noticing occurs and as I sit with it, my tension and irritation is diminishing. I radically accept that it’s unlikely to disappear completely. And now that I’ve noticed, processed and am working on accepting, the discomfort is manageable. 

That’s why acceptance is such an important skill. The difficulty in front of us needs noticing and acceptance before we can manage. 

For those of you that are working on Acceptance through this pandemic, of things small and large, please know that I’m working on it too. You’re not alone. 

About The Author

Beth Lawler, LMSW is a Licensed Masters Social Worker Therapist at Montgomery County Counseling Center in Rockville, MD. She got her Bachelor’s degree in Management as part of the Public Safety Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins University. In 2014, she got her Masters in Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She has extensive experience with a few populations: adolescents and young people transitioning into adulthood, parentswith children who are experiencing difficult transitions, teens and adults with mood and substance use issues and adults transitioning into retirement and beyond. At MCCC, Beth provides both individual and family therapy and is the facilitator of our Online Parenting Class for Parents of Struggling Teens and Young Adults.

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