There are some days where it all just feels like too much.
Does that feel true for you? For the person with depression or anxiety, I would guess this sounds familiar. When you feel overwhelmed in your life and there’s no easy solution, the voices in your mind that say “you can’t make it," “you won’t survive this,” or “it’s all too much” are incredibly persuasive.
Often pain and sadness that accompany depression and anxiety are genuine. It is natural for the trauma survivor exploring the effects of her past abuse and harm to feel angry. The grieving child mourning a parent’s unexpected death or the wife who just discovered her husband’s multiple affairs could feel that life isn’t fair. The new mother who is overwhelmed with balancing her work and family life and the man struggling with depression so severe it causes him to lose his job could turn their anger inward at themselves. All these situations are legitimate, painful experiences that can’t be easily glossed over.
In our pain, we seek to regain a sense of control by blaming others or blaming ourselves, but those contempt-filled accusations only increase our suffering. Fighting back against the pain, in the form of going numb and running away or getting angry, actually increases the amount that we suffer. It can leave us stuck and hopeless of moving forward.
To avoid getting stuck in the cycle of anger, hopelessness, and suffering, it can be helpful to choose radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a term coined by psychologist Marsha Linehan defined as acknowledging the reality of your present circumstance without judging yourself or the situation critically. It involves looking at the situation as objectively as possible to see it for what it really is.
What radical acceptance does not mean is excusing other people or believing that painful events that have happened in your past were not all that bad. It does not mean that you put up with abusive or harmful relationships or situations in your life. On the contrary, it means acknowledging the situation you are in, facing and accepting that it happened, and making choices based on that fact.
In moments where the painful realities feel like too much, it can help to repeat affirmations that allow you to feel grounded and give you a sense of hope. Here are some common coping statements for depression, anxiety, or dealing with trauma:
The Serenity Prayer: God, help me to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This is where I am right now, but it won’t be like this forever.
What happened to me wasn’t okay, and yet there’s nothing I can do to change the past.
Fighting against what happened only makes the pain worse and keeps me stuck.
I can’t control the past, but I can control this present moment and what I choose to do.
I’ve been through painful moments before, and I’ve survived. I’m strong enough to handle this.
I can’t control other people’s actions, but I can control my decisions and how I respond.
This circumstance gives me an opportunity to learn and grow.
I can handle this one day at a time.
I’m going to be okay.
Spend some time testing out these different phrases in your life. See which ones stick or make the most sense in your story, and discard those that aren’t helpful. Practice mindfulness to connect with your emotions and the affirmations that might be most helpful for you in this present moment. As you explore different ways of responding to pain as it arises, my hope is that using radical acceptance will help you both to acknowledge and feel the pain instead of running away from it, as well as feel a sense of comfort and peace about moving forward.
If you feel like your feelings of anxiety and depression are overwhelming, you’re dealing with trauma from your past or present, or you are struggling to get through each day, I’d love to help. Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor counseling office where I help people like you experience freedom from negative thoughts and emotions and live a fulfilling life. Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to hear how I can help.