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RAIN: A Mindfulness Tool to Use When Overwhelmed

RAIN: A Mindfulness Tool to Use When Overwhelmed

A few weeks ago I was at a training on Hoarding Disorder presented by Dr. David Tolin, a renowned expert in the field of Compulsive Hoarding. One of the things he talked about was teaching persons diagnosed with hoarding disorder mindfulness skills.


So often people with hoarding disorder struggle with intense and difficult emotions, frequently feeling overwhelmed, insecure and unworthy. Teaching the skills of self-compassion and mindfulness can be so beneficial. Being mindful of our thoughts and emotions is a powerful way of getting back in touch with ourselves during challenging times and to address our doubts and fears from a healing perspective. 


There's a 4-step method called RAIN*.

R = Recognize what is happening 

A = Allow life to be just as it is 

I = Investigate inner experience 

N = Non-identification

*This is a practice that was first introduced by Michelle McDonald and is taught by many mindfulness instructors particularly Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach.



The first step to dealing with difficult emotions is just to acknowledge when they are present. Ask yourself: What am I experiencing in my body? What are the specifics of the situation I'm in? How am I feeling right now? What am I thinking? Name what is happening for you in the moment. "I am feeling stressed out by my clutter" or "I can't catch my breath and am feeling overwhelmed that I can't find things in my piles."



This step ultimately means 'it is what it is.' You're acknowledging and accepting what is currently happening for you. It doesn't mean you have to like it, but rather just focus on your thoughts, sensations and emotions. Don't start to judge yourself, beat yourself up, start feeling shameful or criticize yourself. Avoid saying things like, "I'm a loser because I can't get my house in order" or "There's no point in trying because I'll always have stuff." Resist these feelings by just hitting the pause button and freezing the moment. By doing this you start to interrupt that pattern of negative thinking and can be more kind to yourself, allowing you to give yourself some grace and caring. 



Once you hit that freeze button and allow your emotions to just be, you can start to explore them slowly. Ask yourself: Why do I feel this way? How is this manifesting in my body? Where there any triggers leading up to the event that influenced my thoughts and feelings? What would help me right now? What could I do differently to support myself through this tough time? Using these questions can lead to a more insightful relationship with our thoughts and feelings and you can start to make better choices about how to respond to situations. 



This is the most important step as you come to realize that you don't have to believe the internal dialogue in your head. You are not your emotions and who you are as a person is not tied to your thoughts and feelings about yourself. You begin to recognize that the story you had been telling yourself is inaccurate. You are not a loser, you are not unworthy of a clean home, you are not flawed. Instead you can switch from "I'm a messy, hopeless hoarder" to "Hoarding is something I struggle with and it makes me feel frustrated and overwhelmed, but I'm working on it everyday and I'm trying to get better."


When you explore the steps of RAIN please be gentle with yourself and go at your own pace. It's a method to use any time you are feeling frazzled, overwhelmed or just need to feel like you have a better handle on things.  


What are your thoughts on using RAIN?


Categories: Mental Health / Hoarding


  • I bet that last one is the most difficult. It is very hard not to listen to internal, negative messaging. Our own voice is the one we hear the loudest. I love this acronym, and the HOPE it allows in. It sends the message that we can accept who we are, there are alternatives, and there is a reason to believe we can live in a way that more aligns with what we desire.
    5/26/2017 7:21:22 PM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: Yes, the Non-identification piece is the tough one. But the more one practices RAIN, the more that negative internal voice can be quieted and replaced with a more positive outlook and yes, HOPE!
      5/28/2017 3:07:48 PM Reply

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