So, you’re feeling stressed. Great. This is an opportunity to develop a skill to help you make room for stress in your life.
RAIN is a technique to help you make room for those unpleasant emotions in life. And in the process learn to make friends with them. To let them be there. Acknowledging that they are different from you.
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Your feeling of stress doesn’t mean that you are a stressed person. You have not always felt stressed. And you will not continue to feel stressed forever. Your feeling of stress will pass. RAIN can help you with practical steps to separate the feeling of stress from your identification of yourself.
2015 was a crazy year for me. I separated from my husband, my father was diagnosed with bowel cancer, I fronted a major restructure, and I started working for myself. RAIN was one of a few techniques that I relied on heavily to get me through 2015 and come out stronger than ever.
Let me explain how it works.
This is the most important and impactful step. Learn to recognise when you are experiencing a strong emotion. Recognising your emotion is different from experiencing your emotion. It is easiest to explain by that moment of insight such as “I’m feeling stressed”. “I’m feeling anxious”. "I’m feeling sad”. “I’m feeling nervous”. It requires cultivating the ability to see yourself in real time, as if you were an observer sitting on your shoulder.
This itself is a skill that can be learnt. Meditators become experts at living in the moment, and paying attention to the present. These skills help in recognising your direct experience of the moment. Another doorway to recognising emotions in real time is to tune into your body. Have you ever had butterflies before a public speaking event? Your body in this case is sending your signals that you recognise as nerves. Your body has sensations for other emotions too.
For me, stress can manifest in tight shoulders. Worry can be a ball in my chest. Embarrassment can be a knot in my stomach. When you are learning to recognise your emotions, tuning into your bodily sensations can be a great teacher.
Just because you are stressed doesn't mean you are a stressed person.
During 2015 I received some incredible advice as I traversed the year. Simply it was to allow the feelings I was experiencing to just be. Of course I felt sad. At other times I felt anger. And still other times I felt apprehensive. For each of these, I tried to allow them to just be there.
This is an important part of life. To allow the highs to fully inhabit your body. And do the same with the lows. Let them be there. Our natural inclination is to quash unpleasant feelings - to think of something more pleasant. And yet like noisy children, the more you try to quash them, the louder they can become.
The way I learnt to do this was to imagine a space or pocket of air around that unpleasant feeling in my body. To just let it be there. To sit with it and suspend judgement. In fact, if you allow it to be there and just notice it, you may notice it when that feeling fades away. Because it will. Just as the feeling that you had last time you were frazzled is no longer there. This feeling will also pass. B
y noticing the feeling fade away it can powerfully reinforce that the emotion is not you. It is just like a cloud floating by in the sky, or a wave in the ocean.
Like in the step before, take the opportunity to investigate the feeling or sensation. What was happening before this feeling came along? Was there a trigger? I had an experience last year when I was feeling very stressed and anxious for three days. I picked it up I think on day two.
I had a meeting scheduled in which I had to have a difficult conversation. It put me in a funk for days. I noticed that as soon as the conversation had finished I immediately felt better. In this way I learnt that conflict can make me feel extremely anxious. Knowing this about myself, I have developed strategies to a) try to bring the conversation forward, b) identify this feeling as being a response to the coming event and c) deal with conflict in a way that suits me. I used an app called Pacifica which helped me investigate my feelings. In fact it was this app that helped me identify this scenario above.
A simple way to start investigating your emotions is to download the app Pacifica and start tracking your mood and thoughts. This will give you insight into what you are feeling. You may even find themes.
Your emotions do not define you.
You are not your emotions. Your emotions come and go. They are transient. Just because you feel angry, it does not make you an angry person. You do not need to act on your emotions. You can feel angry and choose to relax. You can feel stressed and choose to take a walk at lunch time to relax. You can feel like giving up and choose to take that next step forward. In this way you can control your emotions rather than have your emotions control you.
Using RAIN puts you in charge of your life. It helps you recognise that regardless of how you feel, that is OK. That your emotions do not define you. You do not have to act on that. I have found this to be a powerful tool in both my private and work life. It helped me through my ridiculously crazy 2015 and I continue to use it weekly as I navigate this wonderful thing called life.