ACCEPTS, or 7 Tips on How to Handle Bad Feelings

ACCEPTS, or 7 Tips on How to Handle Bad Feelings
Alicia Garrido Martín

Written and verified by the psychologist Alicia Garrido Martín.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

There have probably been a lot of times when you felt like you just couldn’t control your bad feelings and that anything you tried to do just seemed to make them worse. So you conclude that controlling the torrent of unpleasant emotions struggling to get out is a rather tough job. Well, sometimes the key is to deal with the feelings without facing them directly.

You may have heard about “frustration tolerance” and how it’s a good thing to teach our children. It’s really common sense because life won’t always give us what we want or work exactly how we want.

Life will frustrate us. It’s as if it were provoking us to be stronger. Our plans won’t work out as often as we thought they would, though that doesn’t have to be for the worst if we know how spin it in our favor. Inevitably there will be unexpected changes that will disrupt our life and put us to the test.

That’s why it’s so important to teach our children about how to handle bad feelings by starting from this premise. Because if not, if they even just start to feel frustrated, they’ll immediately throw in the towel or anger take over. Frustration must be managed intelligently.


ACCEPTS: skills for handling bad feelings

Pretty much the same thing happens with any bad feeling. It feels like a dull pain that appears and doesn’t go away very easily. However, it comes with a meaning and a reason, like all emotions. Hence the importance of listening to and understanding it. Then you can act.

It’s not about turning a deaf ear or covering our eyes when faced with something we do not like. Rather it’s about not letting it flood our lives or govern our behavior. ACCEPTS is about exactly that. ACCEPTS is an acronym summing up a series of very useful strategies for handling the bad feelings that so often invade.

1. A is for Activities: Find an activity you can channel your frustration into

Here we’re talking about doing some activity you enjoy, feel comfortable doing, and is fulfilling. It’s an activity where you can flow and feel peace, since peace is a no-fail source of positive feelings. Find your activity. Each person will choose something that fits them in particular and how they want to feel right then.

Walking to handle bad feelings.


For some, drawing what’s on your mind will be your activity. For others, it’s disconnecting by going on a bike ride or running. And then for others, the best thing for them is to play an instrument. Find your activity and let it dissipate the bad feelings… little by little they should go away.

2. C is for Contributing: Contribute to improving our environment

When we talk about “contributing” we mean dedicating time to others, helping or collaborating for the sole, simple pleasure of doing so. It’s about feeling useful and improving our environment. When we contribute to the well-being of those around us, our sense of personal effectiveness improves. As a consequence, our bad feelings also tend to disappear.

3. C is for Comparisons: Make realistic comparisons

Sometimes comparing ourselves to someone going through a worse situation gives us a certain sense of relief. The same thing could happen when you compare your current situation with another, more difficult situation you’ve handled. All this helps us distance ourselves from how we feel. Many times we tend to see ourselves as the eye of the hurricane…

… a place where chaos is born and grows. But distancing ourselves from the center of this destructive force and realistically assessing our situation is a healthy exercise if you want to make your bad feelings go away. It will keep us, for example, from beating ourselves and our self-esteem up.

4. E is for Emotions: Using emotions against emotions

This idea is closely related to the first one: activity. Here we’re talking about generating emotions different than the bad feelings we’re feeling right now. One way is to do an activity, do something. It will help us  give up that emotion we so dislike.

So don’t worry about what others do or might think. Don’t lock yourself up at home after a breakup, no matter how badly you think people will see you if you don’t. If that’s what you want, do it, but if you don’t feel like you should, then don’t. Most likely your critics aren’t the ones who really love you and will help you.



5. P is for Push away: Distance yourself

By “push away” we mean putting that situation creating so many bad feelings in you on the back burner for awhile. While this idea doesn’t work for all situations, for many it does. Think about how many of your bad feelings would go away if you just made an effort to focus your mental attention somewhere else.

We’ll deal with it later if we need to. Occupying ourselves with another activity will reduce our bad feelings. It will help us once again to get some distance from that emotional hurricane.



A woman reading outside.

6. T is for Thoughts: Thoughts feed emotions

Sometimes we just need to stop feeding a bad emotion with our thoughts. When we finally stop, many emotions simply die. For example, while it’s very positive to learn from mistakes, especially so you don’t repeat them, it’s not positive to tie ourselves to perpetual regret. We don’t want to be constantly coming up with theories about what happened and wondering “what if”…

Learn, heal, and forget. Remember the lesson, but forget what happened. Don’t come back again and again to punish yourself. If you do, you’ll lose, because all punishments like that end up turning into a shadowy, scary maze.


7. S is for Sensations

Now it may be time to create a sensation we will feel intensely to help distract us from the bad feelings we have. By sensations, we’re referring to things that we perceive with our senses. A flavorful meal, a moving film, a soothing massage… Sensations like these can bring us back down to earth and get us out of our heads.

Learning how to tolerate our bad feelings is something that must start inside us. It is also a job that may take different strategies or steps like the ones above that don’t involve direct confrontation with our feelings.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.