Accepts: An Anxiety Exercise

I’m really struggling today. Let’s be honest and put it all out there. I have unspecified anxiety and, sometimes, it really affects me. Today is one of those days. It didn’t take much, just a bad interaction in a meeting yesterday, and today I’m having a hard time focusing, I can feel my heart trembling, and I keep making anxious motions with my hands and body. If you’ve experienced this before, you know it can consume you. Today, though, I want to try to break out of it, so I’m going to share a technique I learned a few years ago.

It’s called Wise Mind ACCEPTS,” and it’s a technique from Dialectical Behavior Therapy or DBT. A wise mind, in DBT, is the intersection of your logical mind and your emotional mind. This technique is all about Distraction–distracting your mind from the things that are causing you anxiety or stress so you can calm down and center yourself. ACCEPTS is an acronym, where the letters stand for Activities, Contributing, Comparisons, Emotions, Pushing Away, Thoughts, and Sensations. The idea is that when you’re feeling calm, you write down things you can do in each of these categories, and, later, look at the list when you need a distraction, pick one, and see if it helps. I thought I’d share portions of my list so that others may have a jumping off point or use this technique themselves when they need it!

Activities

  • Color a picture while listening to music, a podcast, or an audiobook
  • Tend my houseplants, giving each of them some love and attention.
  • Bake something, preferably cookies
  • Walk my dog and give her belly rubs
  • Throw an ultimate disc around the backyard, or setup backyard disc golf
  • Sew something quick and easy, listening to only the machine whirring
  • Clean the kitchen, or the office, tidy a drawer or two.
  • Do a puzzle, or play a game on my phone
  • Paint something with watercolors
  • Crochet or knit a quick project

Contributing

  • Walk around the local pond and pick up trash
  • Find something to donate, or buy something for a charity
  • Surprise my partner with something he loves
  • Volunteer at the Humane Society
  • Collect items for the food bank
  • Fund a few micro loans

Comparisons

Note that this section does not work for everyone.

  • Look back at myself a year ago, or five years ago. How am I doing?
  • Investigate an injustice elsewhere in the world.
  • Find someone who is doing well to emulate.

Emotions

  • Watch The Wedding Crashers or New Girl to laugh
  • Watch The Decoy Bride to cry happy tears
  • Read A Desperate Fortune for the quiet joy in that book
  • Read The Collector for escapism fun
  • Listen to the Stephen Fry version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to burst out laughing
  • Listen to my Bliss playlist

Pushing Away

  • Visualize building a wall between me and the problem.
  • Put the problem in a box and hide it on a shelf.
  • Visualize the problem melting away like a spring snow.

Thoughts

  • Count to 10 in French, Spanish, or Ancient Greek
  • Count the number of stars, or tiles or slats on my blinds.
  • Count the number of leaves on my plants
  • Try to count the birds based only on their song.

Sensations

  • Hold an ice cube in my hand
  • Wrap my fingers around a cup of warm tea
  • Take a hot shower
  • Snap a hair tie against my wrist
  • Chew some bubble gum
  • Braid my hair

These are just examples, of course, but they’re things I do to distract myself from my anxiety until I can find the space to take a deep breath and face the problem. I hope this can be helpful to someone out there, too. Have a good day, friends.

June 29, 2021 Anxiety


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