How a rainy day can help reduce overwhelm

Spring is a wonderful time of year. It is also one of the rainiest times, but I think that’s kind of nice. I love the fresh, earthy smell in the air after a downpour. And there is something cleansing about it too.

I thought that this would be a great time to talk about another kind of RAIN – the acronym used originally by Meditation Society Teacher, Michele McDonald. The technique attached to this is described as mindful enquiry, and it’s a handy little tool to help yourself when you are stressed out or overwhelmed by something.

It’s also good for when you are being hard on yourself about a perceived ‘failure’, or worrying about an unpleasant interaction with another person. Basically, anything that makes your head spin and your emotions flare can be tackled with this approach.

The RAIN acronym stands for:

RECOGNISE what is going on

ALLOW the experience to be there, just as it is

INVESTIGATE with kindness

NATURAL AWARENESS, which comes from not identifying with the experience

I thought that last one, not identifying with the experience, needed a little explanation. To me, this is about the mindful act of impartial observation. Basically, seeing something as it is, without having to get involved in it.

If you learn mindful meditation, your teacher will tell you to be an impartial observer of your thoughts. The idea is that you are trying to observe all the little thought clouds passing through your mind, see them, but not get drawn into them.

An Everyday Example

So let’s take an everyday example of how RAIN could help you be more mindful and calm with a stressor. For this example, let’s say you were driving and another driver undertook you. No harm was caused, but it was still upsetting.

Here’s how you could process those thoughts and emotions using RAIN.

RECOGNISE

Begin by recognising what happened, and what you think and feel about it – all the bad thoughts included. Our learned and ‘very British’ response might be the old stiff upper lip. We might think we are supposed to squash down bad feelings, tough them out or laugh them off. But trust me, they won’t stay down for long.

So here the first step is to take our head out of the sand and really look at what we are feeling. With the example of being undertaken, you might be feeling a few things.

There might be anger at the physical danger you were put in. Or fear, for much the same reason. If you are not a confident driver, then your first instinct might be to blame yourself for not driving defensively or confidently, and a bit of self loathing might creep in too.

ALLOW

This is about ‘doing’ very little, and not trying to move on too quickly by acting to make the situation better. Don’t rush into fixing mode. First, give yourself a little pause. Sit with those thoughts and feelings and just let them be heard by you, because that’s what they need.

Emotions need to be recognised before we can process them and move on.

So back to the driving example; just sit with the anger, fear, or anything else you are feeling for a bit. It might be wise to pull the car over here and take a breather!

INVESTIGATE

Now you have allowed your emotions to be there, it’s time to investigate them. This is how you begin to process them.

Ask yourself what all the present emotions are and why they are there. If you are more afraid than anything else, gently ask yourself if being put in physical danger triggered an old memory, or made you imagine the worst case scenario had the car hit you.

Whatever it is, be curious and let yourself fully understand why you feel what you feel.

NATURAL AWARENESS

Now this last part can be a little tricky to grasp, but if you keep trying you can get there. You see, it’s not so much something you do, as something you don’t do…

Now that you have RECOGNISED the emotions, ALLOWED them to be there, and INVESTIGATED the thoughts tied up in them – you are AWARE. This is where I draw your attention back to mindfulness meditation.

As I mentioned above, a mindfulness meditation teacher will encourage you to observe your thoughts as clouds passing by. You observe them, just as they are and without getting pulled along by them. You watch, and they keep going by until eventually they are gone.

The idea is to apply this to the emotions and thoughts you have about whatever is stressing you or overwhelming you.

You have recognised what it is. You have allowed it to be there, and importantly, allowed yourself to acknowledge it. You have asked yourself what about it is triggering you. Then with that understanding, you can let it go.

The point I really want you to grasp is the difference between using RAIN, and just trying to ignore or block something out, which never works. Taking these mindful steps allows you to process something, so that you really can let it go, genuinely, not just stubbornly try to deny its existence.

We tend to think of clear skies as a de-stressor, and indeed that’s true. But since rain is plentiful this time of year, and has that wonderful cooling and cleansing aspect to it – wouldn’t it make a wonderful trigger for you remember the RAIN acronym and apply it.

So perhaps every time you see a rain cloud, you could remind yourself about RAIN. If there has been something on your mind that is making you feel uneasy, let that rain cloud remind you to mentally walk yourself through the RAIN steps.

Then maybe you could go and splash in a puddle too – that’s the best part!

I hope this helps you. If you try the technique and enjoy it, then do leave me a comment to let me know.

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