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Being Ok with Not Being Ok: The Process I Use to (Try to) Accept Any State

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You have to be ok with not being ok.

As much as I say that, putting it into practice is a whole other ball game.

Recently, I’ve been trying to get all my locations set and I’ve been making some headway thanks to some amazingly supportive people all over North America (more on that on Friday :)). I have a lot of people I’m still waiting to hear back from…

And I’ve realized that I just have to be ok with not knowing.

…yes, I have to be, but I don’t know yet how to be.

I’m hoping the process is somewhat similar to becoming ok with not being ok in the depression realm of my life. When those sinking feelings come around now, I’m very much like Chris Brogan in that I alert those close to me, and focus on accepting that that’s just where I am at the moment. Then, I get outside and do stuff which almost always makes me feel a little better.

But this: this overwhelming uncertainty of not knowing what’s coming next. This swelling panic of forging new paths through the thick jungles of untraveled territory… I’m having a tough time with it.

So I’m going to talk myself through this right here with you all in hopes that it will help some of you who are just starting to adopt this acceptance as well. I’ll keep it open-ended so that it will work for all situations. Even if you don’t struggle with any diagnoses, this exercise can help you through those tough moments of uncertainty that threaten to beat us all down.

These are the steps toward acceptance that I’ve used with depression and anxiety, that I am hoping will also help me cope with this fear of uncertainty:

1. Recognize it

Whatever class of ovewhelm you’re experiencing, whether it be depression, anxiety, uncertainty or anything else, you must recognize it in order to move out of it.

It seems almost easier to push it away, to deny it. Call it something else like a bad day, or a few nights without enough sleep. Justify it away for too long and you’re lost in the land of denial without bread crumbs to find your way back.

It’s possible to deny away your situation so that you end up so far away from it that you don’t remember what you were denying in the first place, making the solution even more ethereal.

When you start to experience unease, get into the habit of looking within. What are you feeling and why? Recognize it for what it is and have the courage to say, “I am hurting/worried/terrified/panicking/dreading/etc.”

Recognizing and admitting to your feelings won’t give them power. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s like taking out the flashlight when you’re afraid of the dark. If you see the shadows for what they are in the light, they’re not so scary any more.

2. Breathe into it

Take a few moments to just be with your feelings. Doing this will likely bring you up against some major internal resistance.

Your body will fight it.

Your mind will try to focus on something else or block it entirely.

Just breathe into it. Breathe into these feelings and let them be what they are for a moment, however overwhelming they may be.

3. It is what it is

Repeat: “This is just how it is right now, and that’s ok.”

Without placing judgment on your situation or feelings, simply accept that this is what you’re experiencing. Keep those deep breaths going, and find that core place within you to ground yourself in.

You’re still here. You’re still strong. These emotions won’t wash you away. Stick with it.

Repeat this however many times you need to until your breathing calms and you have the ability to see your emotions from the outside, knowing that they are just what they are at the moment. By accepting these feelings, you climb above them to gain a bird’s eye view. From here, you will likely find that this state is transitory.

This will pass, and you’ll make it through stronger for holding on.

4. Take action to do what you can

After you’ve grounded yourself through breathing, you will likely be more able and willing to take action to overcome it.

Go back to the first step and ask yourself again: What am I feeling right now and why?

Take that “why” and let it inform your next actions…

If you are feeling depressed or anxious, there may not be a distinct answer. That’s ok. There is a solution: get outside. Go do something that takes you away from this place you’re in right now. Go to a funny movie. Read a book at a park. Go to the gym. Meet a friend at a coffee shop.

Though moving may be the last thing you want to do right now, it is probably the best thing you could possibly do for your psyche.

If your “why” is a definite cause to your fear or anxiety, and you are truly doing everything you can to move forward on it, you just have to accept that this is how it has to be right now.

This is where we become ok with not being ok. That knowledge that you have taken action and you cannot control the result, can free you if you allow it to.

If you’re still having a hard time, try getting outside, like I recommended to those struggling with unprovoked emotions.

5. Beyond breathing it out

Remember, there is always someone here for you if you feel like it’s just past the point of breathing through it.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Call that person who’s always there for you, or contact a counselor in your area. If it’s an emergency, call these people (who were paramount in my worst times).

Personally, I’m making time to go see my Dr. Pam this week. She’s my therapist and savior, and I almost always feel lighter coming out of there than I did walking in.

The important thing to remember is this: no matter how deep the feeling goes, or how heavy it may seem, you will make it through this.

Just keep breathing.

Stay strong,

Amy

Next time on Strong Inside Out, we start talking dates for The 30×30 Project Tour! I’m coming to a city near you. Are you gonna come get strong with us? More next time…

pic by Helga Weber

14 Responses to “Being Ok with Not Being Ok: The Process I Use to (Try to) Accept Any State”

  1. Tammy R says:

    Beautifully written, Amy, and so important.

    You have crafted so many great lines, but I will choose this one: “Justify it away for too long and you’re lost in the land of denial without bread crumbs to find your way back.” Until recently, I did this. Deny, deny, deny. Acceptance is freeing! Recently, I finished a sitting meditation and just cried. I cried and cried. And when I was done, I got up and kept going – even more aware of the beauty in this world. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!

    • Amy says:

      That’s beautiful, Tammy. I’m so glad you had the wherewithall to let it be what it was, and then to move on. It’s so easy to dwell in that darkness.

      More than happy to share my journey. You all are my journey. :)

  2. cj says:

    Marvelous post, Amy! My wife, Tammy, told me about it and I had to give it a read. Good for you for being able to sit with the uncertainty. Tough stuff, but a must have skill for navigating life.

    • Amy says:

      I love your family! Your support means so much to me. Thank you.

      It’s true. This skill is my focus for right now, but man, is it tough to teach oneself! Looking forward to getting a handle on it :)

  3. Gareth says:

    I just stumbled on your post courtesy of one of Tammy’s tweets Amy.

    Having suffered extremes of anxiety I can relate, particularly because I have adopted the same life-philosophy of acceptance.
    You made me smile with your “It is what it is…that’s ok” acceptance of your emotions because that’s pretty much my line too. It’s the self-criticism and the judgmentalism that people all too often inflict on themselves during bouts of intense negative emotion that adds fuel to the fire. “This is how I’m feeling…and that’s OK” can offer such relief.

    Like you, it’s how I “try” to accept any negative emotions. It doesn’t always work…but it often does; and as a life philosophy it has helped me through countless periods of emotional turmoil. I’m sure it’ll continue to serve you well too… :)

    • Amy says:

      Welcome to Strong Inside Out, Gareth!

      Tammy’s so awesome. She’s been a great supporter of the site for months now. :)

      Relief. Relief is the word to use here. To know that it’s acceptable to be however you are in any moment (instead of thinking you “should” be any certain way) is such a relief. Thanks for that. :)

      I think it’s a constant commitment because, well, hurting sucks. Every time we feel pain we want to get out of it. It’s just in our nature. To accept and live in it, then take action to overcome it, is a step forward in civilization from those primal habits. I think we may have to work on it for the rest of our lives.

      …and that’s ok. :)

      • Gareth says:

        The irony Amy is that so few in the West subscribe to the ethos. I lost count of the number of times I was brow beaten with “You shouldn’t think like that”, “You should fight how you’re feeling; don’t think like that, think like this!” etc. etc. Even those who really should have a greater insight through their profession spiel out that highly destructive and counterproductive nonsense.

        I had to figure it out myself – because unfortunately in my mid-twenties I was oblivious to the fact that Buddhists had been doing the very same thing for the best part of 2500 years. I wish someone had told me :-) And of course, the comical irony is that western psychology is just starting to extol the same practice as an effective form of therapy.

        Thanks for your response Amy. I’ll look forward to reading more of your posts.

  4. Toni says:

    I cannot begin to tell you what a help this is to me and what a huge help this will remain for th future. I just recently sent my husband a rather cryptic email concerning some very important issues and I have yet to hear a reply from him. The “not knowing” is brutal. I will copy this…laminate it…and probably carry it in my purse. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    • Amy says:

      Toni, that means so much to me that it is helping you in such a way. Thank you for letting me know. Wishing you the peace of acceptance as you go along this journey!

  5. Dave U says:

    Always here for you, Amy.

  6. Freida says:

    Thank you for your beautiful article. Your practice reminds me of my Buddhist mindfulness meditation. I want to share an exercise I learned from my teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh. When you are angry ( or feeling some other strong emotion), hold your anger as you would hold a baby. Treat it tenderly. Say to it, “hello my little angry. I see you. I know you need my attention, and I promise to take good care of you.” Sitting with anger or other emotions and simply acknowledging them and accepting them is a powerful tool for achieving peace.

    • Amy says:

      Thank you for sharing that practice, Freida! I’m reading Pema Chodron’s Living Beautifully With Uncertainty And Change, and am learning all about that practice. I look forward to using it in my own life. :)

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