Our guest blogger and school counselor, Christa Marvenko-Athas, has some useful insight for coping with our feelings during this stressful time. Take a look at her simple mindfulness practice.
During highly stressful times I find it difficult to stay grounded in the present, although that is one of the best ways of coping with the stress response. Tara Brach, a psychologist, author, and proponent of Buddhist meditation, explains the use of the acronym RAIN as an easy-to-remember tool for practicing mindfulness. I recommend creating reminders to take moments throughout your day and take a moment to:
R – Recognize what is going on. Acknowledge at any given moment your feelings and thoughts. This can be done through an inner dialog, talking with someone, or journaling. Take a few moments to settle into your inner experience without judgement. Notice thoughts, feelings, and sensations.
A – Allow the experience to just be there. We often try to avoid negative feelings and emotions. We try to distract, fix, avoid, or control when negative feelings overwhelm us; when we do this, we reinforce the message to be afraid. Allowing the experience is about honoring your thoughts and feelings as valid and needing respect and acceptance, and therefore opens the possibility of being tended to. Invite, allow, and treat your experience with compassion.
I – Investigate with interest, care, and kindness. Go deeper into what you are feeling. Scan your body for where you experience these feelings. Focus your attention to your present physical and emotional experience and ask:
- “What is happening inside me?” “Where do I feel this in my body?” “What do I believe about this feeling?” “What do I need?” “How can I tend to my needs?”
N – Nurture with love and compassion. Give yourself the love and nurturing you deserve and need. Perhaps this nurturing comes from loving self-talk or from a caring action toward yourself. Maybe what is needed comes from another person or practice. I have noticed that sometimes I can feel nurtured just by a simple breathing practice or just allowing my emotions to release in safe space. Non self-judgmental expression of emotions can often bring an experience of relief.
At this time when I am feeling flooded with information and resources, I find it helpful to have these step by step, easy to remember practices in my toolbox. I like being able to say to myself “remember to RAIN” or “how am I doing with the 4M's this week?” referenced in the Friday, March 27 blog.
Tara Brach has recently posted a meditation titled Guided Reflection on Bringing RAIN to Fear, which can guide you through this process.
This is the second blog in our guest series. You can also read her first post from Friday, March 27.
Christa Marvenko-Athas is the school counselor at the Waldorf School of Baltimore. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has been providing psychotherapy and counseling services to adults, adolescents, children, couples, families, and groups for more than 25 years. To learn more about Christa, visit her website: https://christamarvenkoathas.com/