Most of us have a lot of stress in our lives – too many demands and not enough time or energy for the things we want to do. Realistically, a significant number of these stressors are out of our control. But we often make it worse, resisting or even denying the reality of some situations.

We can reduce the added stress of resistance by accepting the current reality. That’s not to say that the situation shouldn’t change, or can’t be changed, only that this is just the way it is now. That includes acknowledging the magnitude of the problem and any tension it brings.

It’s very possible the situation “shouldn’t” be the way it is: that elderly parents shouldn’t resist getting help, teenagers shouldn’t break rules, coworkers shouldn’t make our work harder, partners shouldn’t take their stress out on us, etc. The situation may not be fair.

However, the best way to go about changing a difficult situation is not to deny what is, but to accept it and consider our options. Paradoxically, acceptance of a difficulty relaxes us. We no longer have that constant tension of butting-up against what we think shouldn’t be. When we stop resisting, the situation feels a bit less consuming.

Acceptance does not mean minimizing the impacts or importance of difficulties. We need to give ourselves credit for tough things we’re dealing with as we earn a living, raise kids, care for a family member, go to school, or all of the above.

Often, we equate acceptance with giving up, settling for less than what we need or want. In fact, we can’t effectively make positive change until we see clearly the way it is right now. Acceptance is a very powerful step and creates the foundation for a realistic plan of action. The action we choose may be as simple as finding ways to adjust how we react to the situation. While not easy, changing ourselves is much more likely to happen than making someone else change.

For example, maybe we are having trouble with a coworker who is causing lots of bickering in the group. Since we cannot magically change them, we must accept them for who they are being at the moment. From this non-resistant mindset, we have more mental (and emotional) energy for creative problem-solving. Now we can consider the options, decide what we need to do in response, and then do it.

It also helps for us to remember the things that are not difficult in our lives, the things that support us. Most of us have a tendency to focus on the bits that aren’t going well. However, we can choose to change our focus, at least for short periods, to those things that are positive. Concentrating our attention on positive aspects of our lives helps put our troubles into perspective. From our new perspective, we may decide either to take more active steps to address the problems or simply reduce the attention we give them.

Acceptance brings choice and empowerment back into life.  Once we accept the way things are now, we regain access to all of that energy we had been using to resist what just is. It’s tough to accept reality when we’re in the thick of things, especially if the situation doesn’t seem fair, but making the effort will pay off for us. We will be better able to see ways to change the situation and have more energy to make those changes. This will not only improve our experience of life, but our lowered stress levels will help us get along better with those around us.