Turn to the power of the pivot. You can, too, with an Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) approach, a mindfulness-based, values-oriented behavioural therapy. ACT gets it name from one of its core messages: accept what is out of your personal control, and commit to action that improves and enriches your life. Clinical psychologist Dr Emma Hanieh, director at the ACT Centre in Adelaide, explains how it works.
During times of distress, it can be difficult to see past the ‘swamp’ and decide the direction your life will take, says Hanieh. The key is to reflect on what’s meaningful, she says.
Try this: Ask what you want your life to stand for – is it love, connection or something different? Next: what are the specific actions you can do every day to pivot towards these values? Meridith opted to become her daughter’s caregiver. Depending on your circumstances, it could be connecting with family or talking more openly with friends.
Grief and sadness can feel unbearable in those initial moments says Hanieh, but if you allow yourself to ‘feel these feelings’ rather than avoid them, the waves will eventually subside.
Try this: Notice where that feeling sits in your body, and see if you can picture what size, shape or colour it would be, says Hanieh. Then practise taking slow and deep breaths, as if you’re expanding the room around where this feeling sits, letting go of the fight for it not to be there. If these feelings continue to be overwhelming, talk to your GP who can help you find a therapist or counsellor .
Your mind has a tendency to replay difficult events, telling you what ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ been, explains Hanieh. Dwelling in these thoughts takes you away from being in the present, she says, and it is the present where we can pivot. Meridith swung between disbelief and guilt, until she pivoted to be fully present (physically and emotionally) for her daughter.
Try this: When you notice your mind is hooked on what ‘could have’ or ‘should have’ been, gently acknowledge the hook – “I’m hooked again” – then take three slow, deep breaths, noticing the movement of your chest rising and falling. Next: bring yourself to the present by focusing on three things you can see and hear around you. Now you’re engaged and ready.
If you need further help call LifeLine on 13 11 14 .