Embracing All the Feels With My Mindful Toolbox
Since the beginning of this pandemic outbreak, most days I feel like I am acting out a screenplay. Maybe today it is Groundhogs Day or Contagion, and tomorrow it will be the Walking Dead? Just the phrase GLOBAL PANDEMIC sounds like something out of a sci-fi horror film. Many of the headlines seem fictional. Even tweets and social media posts are hard to believe. Were they all created by Russian Hackers?
Some days I find emotions coming on hard and fast. They come all at once, and they all try to put me into a state of suffering. In order to welcome the emotional waterfalls and deal with this new life at home, I have been rummaging through my mindfulness toolbox. One of my favorites is a tool called RAIN, which stands for Recognize, Acknowledge, Investigate, and Non-Identification (or Nurture).
THE POWER OF CHOOSING WHEN YOU CONTROL NOTHING ELSE
Mindfulness, living in the present moment, is a fairly new practice for me. Though it is simple, it can be difficult to implement when the mind is overwhelmed, worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Even in these challenging times, I have found great comfort when I take the time to stay grounded and mindful. It gives me the opportunity to make a choice about how I want to deal with our current situation.
When the emotions do come all at once, I use RAIN to look a little closer and get the perspective I need to stay out of a suffering state. Allowing myself to look at the emotions and the experiences that triggered them gives me a pause when I feel overwhelmed and anxious during the emotional storm. I will go through how I used it just two nights ago.
MY RAIN STORY: RECOGNIZING, ACKNOWLEDGING, INVESTIGATING AND NURTURING
After an amazing day with many wins, I had an evening filled with fear, anger and panic. You guessed it, I watched the news. When I felt the physical pains of stress kicking in, I knew I needed to press pause on this horror show.
Step one of RAIN is recognizing the emotion that is taking over. Many times it feels like there is a flood of different emotions, but one is the leader of the pack. That night I was dropping f-bombs, blaming the innocent, questioning loved ones and friends' responses, and frantically texting for advise as if we all had been infected already. There was anger, panic and dread, but the real driver of the bus was fear. When I recognized that fear was taking me to suffering, I looked a little deeper into the situation.
Acknowledging, allowing and accepting the emotion is the next step in RAIN. Some say it is "allowing what is, to just be." I love this. It is okay, normal and healthy to have fear. If we suppress that feeling, we will create more suffering and anxiety. I was getting very deep into anger and projecting that onto others because of my fear. I have learned from the past that burying my real feelings or being embarrassed to admit them affects my relationships and leads to blame, resentment and loss. That is not something I am willing to live with right now. I need to allow myself to be fearful.
The next step in RAIN is to investigate. This is where you look for the real source of the emotion. Why do I really feel this way? What story am I telling myself? What is the real story? What do I need right now? On that evening, when fear took over, I was telling myself a false story. I was afraid that I was failing. I didn't do enough to protect the people I feel responsible for. I was powerless and weak. What I need to believe is that I am doing everything in my power to protect my family, and that I am doing my best.
The last step is non-identification or nurture, whichever n-word you prefer. In this step, I let myself off the hook. I see my feelings, own them and I do not judge myself for having the emotions. I let go of the false stories that create shame and blame. I am not weak or inferior because of my fear. I have it. I accept it, but it does not define me. I am not a fearful person. I am a person who has fear right now. I am at peace with that.
Someday my children will remember these times like an old movie. I want them to remember me as the heroin who created a safe and fun place to take shelter in a scary time. I want to create happy, meaningful memories of our family together, living our best lives. Most importantly I want them to know it is okay to feel. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to miss your friends. It is okay to be sad you don't get the birthday party you planned. It is also okay to live and laugh. It is not okay to live in suffering. Our movie might not be a box office hit, but it will be a hit with the people who matter to me.