Cognitive Strategies for Coping with Covid-19 Pandemic: Radical Acceptance and Tolerating Uncertainty

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Radical acceptance is defined as the act of accepting current circumstances to enable change. This is a concept adapted from Dialectical Behavior Therapy that may be helpful in coping with the current pandemic. The idea behind it is when you accept that things are the way they are, you can then focus on what you can do about it. In practicing radical acceptance, it is helpful to develop coping statements to remind yourself when you are feeling stressed. Here are some examples:

“The present is the only moment I have control over.”

“Fighting the past only blinds me to my present.”

“I can’t change what’s already happened.”

Saying the Serenity Prayer is also in essence practicing radical acceptance but with a higher purpose. It is helpful as not only can it help meet a psychological need in dealing with stress but it can also meet a spiritual need as it is an act of practicing faith. The Serenity Prayer goes like this:

God grant me Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

and Wisdom to know the difference.

Tolerating uncertainty is another cognitive strategy that may be helpful in dealing with the current crisis. It is a concept adapted from Cognitive Behavior Therapy. It is similar to Radical Acceptance in that you are accepting the reality that you do not know everything that can happen in the future. It is the realization that we can really only know what is happening right now and thus, this is what we should focus on. Also, not worrying about the future and staying in the present can actually help us be prepared for the future. Some of the skills that may be helpful in learning to tolerate uncertainty are as follows:

Listing what you can control and what you cannot control

Saying a prayer or practicing meditation

Improving your present moment

Some cognitive statements you can use to help practice tolerating uncertainty are as follows:

Asking “Is there anything I can do?” If so, do it. If not let it go.

“Let go and let God.”

“Someday I may know, but it’s ok not to know now.”

Sources: McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook: Practical DBT exercises for learning mindfulness, interpersonal effectiveness, emotion regulation & distress tolerance. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. Riggenbach, Jeff. (2013). The CBT Toolbox: A workbook for clients and clinicians. Eau Claire, WI: PESI, Inc.

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