ACCEPTS Coping Skill for Difficult Emotions

When should I use this skill?

Try ACCEPTS when you are having overwhelming and distressing emotions like anxiety, fear, and depression. Take a break from the situation to gather your thoughts and cool down before making a decision on how to proceed. This skill is used as a distraction coping technique. This does not mean ignoring or denying that there is a problem, just taking a mental break!

A – Activities

  • Focus attention on a task you need to get done
  • Rent movies; watch TV
  • Clean a room in your house
  • Play computer games
  • Go for a walk or exercise
  • Call or video chat a friend
  • Download and/or listen to music
  • Build/create something
  • Spend time with those you’re living with
  • Play cards
  • Read magazines, books, comic
  • Do crossword puzzles or Sudoku.
  • Comment more suggestions!

C – Contributions

  • Find volunteer work to do
  • Help a friend or family member
  • Surprise someone with something nice (a
    card, a favor, a gift, etc.)
  • Give away things you don’t need
  • Check in on a friend or loved one 
  • Make something nice for someone else
  • Do something thoughtful.

What is something you have done or can do this week to help others?

C – Comparisons

  • Compare how you are feeling now to a time when you felt differently (ie. a week ago, an hour ago, etc.)
  • Think about people who may be going through something similar, but may have things more difficult (find gratitude in your situation)

What are you grateful or thankful for in your life?

E – Emotions

Choosing an activity that makes you have a different emotion than what you are currently feeling. For example, if you are feeling fearful do not watch a scary movie. Try a comedy instead!

Activities could include:

  • Reading emotional books or stories, old letters, cards etc. (ie. happy books, funny cards, comic books etc.)
  • Watch emotional TV show or movies (ie. comedy, romance, scary movie, action, etc.)
  • Listen to emotional music (ie. motivational, religious, calming, energizing, etc.)

P – Pushing Away

Trying to stay grounded while pushing away stressful thoughts. Sometimes that means putting some thoughts aside for now, so you can address them at another time when you feel calmer and less distressed. Pushing away could look like:

  • Push the situation away by leaving it for a while
  • Build an imaginary wall between yourself and the situation
  • Block thoughts and images from your mind
  • Notice ruminating thoughts: Yell “No!”
  • Refuse to think about the painful situations
  • Put the pain on a shelf. Box it up and put it away for a while

Check out my previous blog about Ground Techniques for more suggestions!

T – Thoughts

Find a way to distract your thoughts


Pick a color and name everything you see in that color.

Name as many animals as you can think of.

S – Sensations

*Find a way to fully immerse yourself in your senses. Examples could include:

  • Squeeze a rubber ball very hard
  • Listen to very loud music
  • Hold ice in your hand or mouth
  • Go out in the rain or snow
  • Take a hot or cold shower

In future blogs I will tell you more ways to use your 5 senses to distract yourself from distressing emotions!

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