Radical Acceptance in the Era of COVID-19

By Colleen Werner

Anyone who is familiar with DBT (dialectical behavior therapy), is likely very familiar with the concept of radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is accepting reality for what it is, despite how painful, uncomfortable, or disappointing it may be.

Instead of pushing away reality and trying to pretend like whatever is currently going on for us actually isn’t, we acknowledge the truth of the situation, allowing us to move forward in processing and healing.

Radical acceptance doesn’t mean that we’re loving or even approving of the situation we’re in — it just means that we’re accepting reality.

In my eating disorder recovery, radical acceptance was key. I had to learn to embrace discomfort, change, and painful emotions. Whether it was dealing with my body changing, having incessant eating disorder thoughts, or a host of other challenges that popped up, radical acceptance was always the first step in being able to truly cope with what was going on instead of turning back to my eating disorder.

While I consider myself recovered from my eating disorder, radical acceptance is still an integral part of my life, especially during this time of coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic is drastically impacting so many people worldwide in massive ways. From loss of work, to cancelled events, to food insecurity, to major shifts in daily routines — everyone is affected in some way.

While I’m incredibly lucky to still have a stable work situation, many other avenues of my life have changed due to the pandemic. My daily ballet classes have transitioned from beautiful studios to being held over Zoom in a makeshift, 4x6 space in my house. My grad school classes have transitioned to being over video. My coworking space is closed indefinitely. My boyfriend is out of work indefinitely.

My weekly therapy sessions are held over video, with a Bluetooth speaker as a makeshift sound machine. A week-long therapy training I was supposed to attend this month was postponed until November. In addition, I have asthma, so I’m at high risk of contracting the virus, leading to even more ramped up anxiety. It would be very easy to just push this reality away and try to act like it isn’t affecting me or doesn’t exist by numbing it out or simply distracting it away. However, as I learned in eating disorder recovery, rejecting reality doesn’t actually solve anything.

So, despite the discomfort and sadness my current reality is causing, I’m practicing radical acceptance. I’m acknowledging what is really happening, and I’m acknowledging that the situation isn’t in my control. I’m acknowledging that my life is still beautiful and worth loving, despite what is currently happening. I’m acknowledging that this situation while painful, and at times surreal, is real and won’t be changing quickly.

By practicing radical acceptance, I’m able to actually cope with what I’m feeling instead of trying to push it away.

I’m not telling myself that this situation is okay or even telling myself that I enjoy it (that would be a lie), but I am acknowledging that this is my current reality and deserves to be accepted.

Radical acceptance is much easier said than done. It takes a lot of practice, and it can feel extremely counterintuitive. However, when we stop fighting reality, we’re able to push forward, feel what we’re feeling, and move towards continuing to create a life we love.

So, here’s to continuing to radically accept this unprecedented, uncertain situation — we’re all in this together, and we will come out stronger.

Written by

Colleen Werner

Colleen Werner is a dancer, writer, public speaker and therapist-in-training based in Nashville, Tennessee. Her personal experiences with an eating disorder, anxiety, depression and PTSD led her to…