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RAIN: How Can I Utilize Mindfulness During Difficult Times?

By: Bridgette W. Gottwald, LPC, NCC

Anxious? Depressed? Worried? Stressed? It happens to the best of us, at least every now and then with all of the many curve balls and unexpected things that life throws at us. Mindfulness exercises allow us to stop what we are doing, take a breath, observe thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and proceed with something that will help us in the present moment. It will result in us tapping into the present moment, what we are doing, and where we are while avoiding being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what is going on.

When experiencing or dealing with intense or difficult emotions, RAIN is a helpful four-step acronym process that offers support. You can use these helpful steps in working yourself through a situation while making sense of it.

RAIN: Four Steps to Dealing With Intense Emotions In Difficult Times 

  1. Recognize what is happening
  2. Allow life to be just as it is (acceptance)
  3. Investigate inner experience
  4. Non-identification


First and foremost, recognize and accept whatever it is that you are feeling. Instead of fleeing and wanting to run from what you are going through, face it head-on with acceptance and lack of judgment. Your gut might try to persuade you to turn away from this, but it’s more helpful for you to lean in. Try to name what you are feeling to “bring you into full contact with yourself and the actuality of the present moment.”


In the allowing step, you are letting it be as it is and practicing acceptance. In order to allow, you do not have to like the situation, you are simply softening your “mental resistance to what is happening.” This will result in avoiding you getting caught up in your thoughts and choosing a conscious response as opposed to reacting in a way that you might regret later on.


After recognizing and allowing a specific emotion, you can learn more about what is going on within, and investigate it. However, you might not need to take this step, depending on where you are in the process. Here are some questions you can utilize while investigating:

  • Why do I feel the way I do?
  • Was there a trigger that caused me to feel this way?
  • Are there events that happened ahead of the emotion that might have influenced it?
  • Are there psychological factors that have affected this emotion or led me here?
  • An example of a physiological factor would be not getting enough sleep or being hungry.
  • What do I need right now?
  • What actions can I take to nurture and support myself?
  • Would a break or momentarily removing myself benefit me?
  • What am I observing?
  • Do I have a request for myself or someone else?


You are not your mind or your emotions, and you must view yourself as separate from these things. They don’t define you. You are “the awareness that is always there underneath every thought, emotion and sense perception.” Your sense of who you are should not be fused with emotions or thoughts that you experience. Ideally, this will give you a sense of freedom and ease.

This RAIN method might be helpful any time you are stressed, overwhelmed, or feel as if you are in a “funk” or out of touch. Next time you find yourself amidst an internal struggle, give this technique a try to see if it works for you! If you would like support in your journey, please reach out to Symmetry Counseling. You can explore our counseling services online, and contact our intake specialists to get paired with a therapist in Chicago.


Obrien, M. (n.d.). RAIN: A four-step process for using mindfulness in difficult times. Retrieved from:

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