Stressful days suck! The little things pile up and morph into a big deal that tests your ability to cope. At times like this, put yourself in a time-out. When unable to control life's stressors, a wise person ACCEPTS limiting situations.
The A.C.C.E.P.T.S. acronym shows you how to break away from the moment, regroup your thoughts and emotions, and return to your day with better focus and tolerance. It's a chance to re-evaluate where your energy will be better redirected to move on.
Kids get recess and nap time at school. When you grow up, you don't grow out of the need for these escapes.
A Fact with Wow Factor
A 5- or 10-minute mini break results in better, longer-lasting stress recovery than its hour(s)-long counterpart. The same holds true for an extended weekend vacation compared to a week-long one. [Source 1, Source 2]
Stress Less Tip
It makes sense to brush off stress as it settles on your shoulders rather than trying to clear away build-up. Yet the 55% of Americans with unused paid time off each year seem unaware of the dangers of overworking. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that overworking affected 488 million people worldwide in 2016 and contributed to 745,000+ deaths. Those numbers continue to rise each decade, with COVID-19 further exacerbating the issue.
If you think you lack time to take a break, weigh the pros and cons of pushing past your stress threshold. Seriously. Get out a piece of paper. Then jot down the benefits you expect from leaning into tension, frustration, and anxiety. Your list may include saving time or timeliness, among other things.
Don't neglect the other half of this exercise. Identify the negative consequences of plowing through without stopping. Will you treat others poorly and regret it? Will you make irreversible mistakes in your work that create MORE work for yourself later? Will you give up and leave things undone? Will you misplace or forget things? Will your anxiety level spiral out of control? Only you know what should go on this list.
If the cons look nasty compared to the pros of testing your stress limit, make it a habit to REST and RESET regularly.
Did you arrive at the conclusion that taking a break wins against taking a beating from stress? I hope so! Embrace your inherent value, undefined by productivity or others' expectations.
The A.C.C.E.P.T.S. acronym lays out a set of constructive coping skills taught in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Pick one or two of them to de-escalate the intense emotions or thoughts that come with overwhelm. DBT dictates no specific time minimum (or maximum). Depending on the break-away action and your responsiveness to it (through practice), you may only need a few minutes of reprieve.
Only consider an activity relaxing if it slows down your mind and body. No intense exercise or surprise parties. ;)
Think outside of yourself, and attend to others' needs. Not only will you brighten someone's day, but you'll also feel good about yourself.
Gratitude goes a long way toward improving your mood and focusing a wild mind. Try this short list for starters. Then check out the article on cultivating positivity for more ways to practice this mindset.
Flip the switch on your emotions to the opposite end of the spectrum. Tense with anger? Listen to a recording of someone reciting poetry in a calm voice. Feeling melancholy? Watch a video of your favorite comedian. Here are a few other ways to head the other direction with your mood:
Physically distance yourself from the stressor by whatever means necessary. This temporary avoidance tactic might literally mean walking away, tucking a distressing letter or bill in a drawer, or closing your email.
Sometimes, this simple act provides all the break you need. Other times, it works best when paired with another A.C.C.E.P.T.S. idea.
Engage your brain in a way that distracts or takes over your previous thoughts.
Activate as many of your senses as possible in a single experience.
Work out your preferred A.C.C.E.P.T.S. plan ahead of time. List a skill you'll keep at the ready for each letter of the acronym. Rank each skill from most to least effective with the time you'll need for it to feel satisfying. When that break calls to you, start with the top item on your list!
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