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Take a Step Back from Your thoughts and Emotions to Reduce Stress

Taking a step back from your thoughts and emotions is a great way to manage your stress response. When you do so, the thoughts and emotions lose their power to affect you, and you’re able to watch them without being overly involved in them.

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The following exercise is a really handy way of managing difficult emotions. You can try using the process a few times with mild stress. After you get the hang of the method, you can use it for more extreme sources of stress. The technique is based on the easy-to-remember acronym: RAIN.

Go through the following process and afterwards note down what effect each step had:

  1. Recognise:

    Become familiar with your current thoughts and feelings. You may be thinking, ‘I can’t believe this queue is so long!’, and you may be feeling anxious. Ask yourself, ‘What’s happening for me right now?’ Research shows that the act of labeling the emotion that you’re experiencing in your mind is beneficial.

    What did you notice?

  2. Accept:

    Acknowledge that, at this moment now, this is your present experience. Denying the fact of the present-moment feeling doesn’t help you to get rid of the feeling. For example, the feeling of anxiety already exists and is a fact. Stop fighting with your present-moment’s reality.

    How did this step go?

  3. Investigate with kindness:

    Become aware of how this emotion is being generated by your thoughts. Notice where you feel the emotion in your body. These difficult sensations can be challenging to be with, so bring as much warmth and kindness to this step as you can. Look at the emotions as you’d look at a young child in pain — with compassion.

    What did you notice when you investigated with kindness?

  4. Non-identify:

    This stage is about stepping back and looking at your inner experience from a wider perspective. This step follows naturally from the previous three. You step back into awareness and watch your experience without the idea, for example, ‘I’m anxious.’ Instead you aim for the sense of watching anxiety without being the feeling — you’re resting in open awareness without clinging on to experience.

    What was this stage like for you?

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