RAIN: Four steps that help when we feel overwhelmed

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed as we go about our daily activities, attempting to meet the expectations of our employers, our families, our friends, our communities, and ourselves.  When life’s challenges seem to be ganging up on us, we can remember to be mindful by “RAINing” some compassion and loving self-care on our lives.

RAIN is an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. It has four steps:

Recognize 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.1

Awareness and kindness are keys to this process. Without them, we may begin to feel unworthy, falling into the trap of self-judgment and belief that something is fundamentally flawed within us. Most of us wouldn’t treat a dear friend so harshly, yet we will do it to ourselves.  This is when we may feel the “squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression,” as Tara Brach observes in this month’s post on Mindful.org2.  Describing the RAIN concept, she explains that

Compassion fully blossoms when we actively offer care to ourselves. To help people address feelings of insecurity and unworthiness, I often introduce mindfulness and compassion through a meditation I call the RAIN of Self-Compassion.3

I encourage you to read Ms. Brach’s excellent article in its entirety. I especially like the way she describes recognition of the situation:

Like awakening from a dream, the first step out of the trance of unworthiness is simply to recognize that we are stuck, subject to painfully constricting beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations. Common signs of the trance include a critical inner voice, feelings of shame or fear, the squeeze of anxiety or the weight of depression in the body.4

She goes on to describe “allowing” as “taking a life-giving pause,” where we simply let the situation be, just as it is, rather than reacting in one of three typical ways: “piling on judgment; numbing ourselves to our feelings; or by focusing our attention elsewhere.”5 In that space of allowance we find freedom and power.

Investigating our feelings about a situation allows us to find truths that lead us to unconditional self care, healing, and resilience. We can develop “a heartspace where everything that is, is welcome.”6  This process can be difficult, bringing recognition of current suffering or memories of past suffering to the surface.  Brach shares a personal story of using RAIN to reach acceptance of her own chronic illness. She recognized that she felt trapped in both the symptoms of the illness and her own aversion to her reactions to the illness. She was able to allow those feelings to be and grieve the loss of her health, finding peace through compassion for herself.

When we’ve done the first three steps of RAIN, we’re rewarded with “N”: natural, loving awareness. Intentional recognition, allowance, and investigation allow us to simply rest in natural awareness, coming home to our true nature. As Brach concludes,

We each have the conditioning to live for long stretches of time imprisoned by a sense of deficiency, cut off from realizing our intrinsic intelligence, aliveness, and love. The greatest blessing we can give ourselves is to recognize the pain of this trance, and regularly offer a cleansing rain of self-compassion to our awakening hearts.7



Dr. Pamm

1Tara Brach, Feeling Overwhelmed? Remember “RAIN”, Mindful.org, August 2014.


3 Ibid.





Mindfulness Meditation: Self-care for Busy People

Notice your breathing as you begin to read this article. Take a few nice breaths and notice if you can feel the texture of your breath as it crosses over your lips or through your nostrils. Notice your thoughts. Are you judging whether this piece will catch your attention or if you will stop reading now? Are you thinking about what has to be done when you finish this article?

If you followed the suggestions above you have already begun to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is practiced by paying attention to purpose in your life as it unfolds moment by moment. By using a lens of non-judgment and curiosity we can begin to view our lives with more acceptance and compassion. There is evidence that this practice helps decrease automatic responses to stress and increase neuroplasticity in the brain (new brain cells).

Mindfulness is often done in a formal meditation but can be done anywhere and anytime as a form of self-care. By becoming committed to this simple practice of paying attention and “naming and noting” the present moment experiences, we become aware of patterns of thought that disrupt our peacefulness. Return to your breath over and over to keep the ever wandering mind in the present moment.

Notice your body. Are you sitting down or standing up as you read? Do you have any aches or pains in your body? Notice the clothing you have on today. Do you like the colors and textures of the clothing?

Notice your emotions. Are you feeling: Peaceful? Anxious? Calm? Rushed? Sad? Joyful? Sleepy?

One of my favorite homework assignments for myself and my clients is to watch the wind blow for ten minutes daily. Often folks look at me like I am crazy when I make this suggestion. Try it. Watching the wind blow is a simple process. You have time.

Watch your breath and notice the way you feel when you breathe. Notice your surroundings. Look at the colors of objects around you. If you can’t get outside, notice the air from a fan blowing. Notice how the breeze or stillness of the air touches your skin.

Becoming an active member of your self-care team will be time well spent!!

This post by Dr. Pamela Cappetta was first published on Behavioral Health Matters.

Behavioral Health Matters web site