Imagine you’re holding an ice cube in your hand.
You concentrate on the sensations doing that causes.
Eventually, you begin to have thoughts unrelated to the sensations, thoughts like, “This is really uncomfortable,” or “How much longer do I have to do this?”
When those thoughts come, you notice them, acknowledge that you have them, and then go back to concentrating on the sensations of holding an ice cube.
That is an illustration that my therapist used to explain acceptance in terms of generalized anxiety disorder or any anxiety.
On my last visit, I told him about the increased anxiety I’ve had lately. I’ve felt revved up and unable to settle down and concentrate.
So he talked to me about accepting my anxiety. He said it’s not the same thing as liking the anxiety.
And it’s different from actually making the anxiety worse by worrying about the bodily sensations of anxiety, worrying about worrying, “catastrophizing” the fact that we feel anxious.
We can practice acceptance by focusing on the bodily sensations that come from feeling anxious. When an unrelated thought comes along, we can acknowledge it but then return our attention to the sensations.
With this mindfulness, we can begin to accept that our body is expressing anxiety.
Acceptance is to acknowledge what we’re experiencing and then to go on to something else.
Ironically, that makes the anxiety easier to deal with, my therapist said.
The ice cube example also helps to illustrate the importance of mindfulness. We can choose to focus on our anxious feelings, but I’ve learned that we can also choose to focus on something like the breath, or our senses.
Every time we realize we’re thinking of something other than the breath or what we’re hearing, for example, we can bring our attention back. Usually I have to do this again and again
That puts me in the moment. It takes me away from my worries. It takes me away from worrying about my worries.
And even a little while away from the worries provides me with relief. And a little more acceptance.
What about you? Does accepting the anxiety make sense to you?