Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health
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Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

Posts tagged CBT
The struggle (and strength) of accepting the unexpected

My practice is in Portland, Oregon and I was born here. I know a lot of things about Oregonians and one of them is this: We don't do snow well.  It's snowed three times in December and January this winter and each time, it's been less than two inches. School's been called off approximately five days thus far. I've been a counselor for about as long as I've been a mother and after six years of having both roles, I still don't do snow days and sick days as gracefully as I would like to. Accepting the unexpected, the unplanned, the unwanted is still not my greatest strength. Based on my Facebook feed, it isn't the strength of most of my parent friends either. At least I'm not alone. 

Someone posted this awesome infographic to my Facebook feed. It was created by someone named "Sarala" and if you know him/her, please have them email me so I can give credit for the humor and the truth. 

Someone posted this awesome infographic to my Facebook feed. It was created by someone named "Sarala" and if you know him/her, please have them email me so I can give credit for the humor and the truth. 

Days like this, sick days, snow days, or other unexpected impediments are struggle and they may even be some suffering (especially if your boss doesn't understand you're stranded at home and if school is closed and you're out of sick days). They also provide some interesting material to work with to help increase your psychological flexibility. 

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that you APPROVE of these unexpected upheavals to your best laid plans. I can enumerate the ways in which I'm behind - I cancelled three client appointments today, I'm behind on two continuing education courses I was supposed to finish before the end of 2016, and that career development course I've been working on - forget it. I haven't touched it since the snow day before Christmas. I completely disapprove of this weather (and my kid's pinkeye right before holiday break). But ACCEPTING the interruption is the difference between struggling and suffering. It's the difference between spending the day at 3/10 frustration and anger and 9/10. It can be the difference between creating meaningful memories of whatever situation you're faced with and creating horrible ones. 

Accepting means allowing yourself to experience anxiety and worry about the interruption and doing necessary planning while also allowing time to refocus on the most important things around you. Today it meant focused task-switching between rescheduling clients, answering emails, playing with children, doing housework, and then editing resumes.

Accepting means acknowledging your frustration about disappointing people, having to renegotiate deadlines, and watching your to-do list grow while also noticing that the struggle of fighting against things not under your control creates more suffering than letting go. 

Acceptance is difficult and active and requires a lot of attention. It gets easier with practice but I'm not sure it ever gets easy. I yearn for the day when acceptance is reflexive for me. For now, all I can say is that it's been my experience and the experience of most of my clients that acceptance is a skill that becomes easier each time you practice it.