In-office appointments are now available with appropriate physical distancing measures in place. Daily, weekly or monthly system rentals are also available. Contact us for a free phone/online consultation.

RAIN – How to Stay Dry When the Storms Come

Mindfulness Practice

One way to help keep our nervous system in balance is to practice mindfulness.  My go-to teacher for that is Tara Brach.  The practice that she teaches, which emerged about 15 years ago among a group of Buddhist teachers, is called RAIN, and it helps to move us from what Tara calls “trance to presence”.  It’s about pausing when we become aware that our reactivity is increasing, our thoughts are starting to race, or our breathing has become shallow, and then shifting our attention to what’s really going on inside.  

When we are in trance our minds are narrowed and we get hooked on the problem itself. We can start to feel defensive, separate, fearful or angry. 

So how does using RAIN help?  RAIN gives us a method for pressing the pause button on trance and being moving towards more presence in the moment.

Mindfulness Practice On A Dock

What are the steps of RAIN?

R stands for Recognize.  In this step the idea is to notice that your mind or heart is racing, you’re feeling anxious, and then to ask a question like “What’s happening/going on inside me?” or “What am I believing right now about my mind racing or feeling anxious?” 

A is for Allow.  During this step we can ask the question “Can I be with this feeling or sensation of anxiety?”  If the answer is yes, you then hang out with or observe the feelings, physical sensation(s) or thoughts you’re having without trying to change them or judge yourself for having them.  If the answer to the question is no, that is okay too, it means your system is too overwhelmed to do the practice at that time and you need to honour that no.  There will be other times when the answer is yes.  

I is for Investigate.  This step is about being curious and digging deeper to discover what’s really going on.  Some questions to choose from are, “Where am I feeling this in my body? What’s really happening inside me right now? For example, if you’re feeling anxious, angry or sad, where is that coming from in your body? Is there something else happening inside you that’s underneath your feeling? What are you believing about yourself right now? Is this really true? Are you certain this is true?”

N stands for Nurture.  Once you have some clarity or awareness of what is really going on from investigating, for example, “I’m afraid…”, the next step is to nurture that tender place that has revealed itself.  Questions to ask yourself are, “Can I be with this with kindness?  What does that part need right now?”  It can be as simple as putting your hand on your heart and saying something like, “It’s okay” or “I’m here for you”.

After the RAIN.  Tara has now added this fifth step, which is taking a couple of extra minutes after the first four steps to let the awareness and nurturing settle in more deeply. The idea is not to jump quickly back into whatever you were doing prior to RAIN,   

Further Rain Resources

As with any practice, RAIN is an ongoing practice and changes occur over time.  Here is a link to a RAIN meditation by Tara to help get you started: https://www.tarabrach.com/meditation-practice-rain/ 

For a PDF of the steps of the RAIN practice go to https://www.tarabrach.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RAIN-of-Self-Compassion2.pdf 

I also highly recommend Tara’s latest book, Radical Compassion.  It is easy to read and provides many in-depth examples of the RAIN practice.  

Fight, flight, freeze – what does it all mean?

I talk to clients all the time about the fight, flight, freeze response.  People who come to see me are almost always dealing with symptoms related to anxiety.  What that looks like in their lives is that their brain won’t shut off, there can be 10 things going on in their mind at once, and they overthink things, which means that small things often become big things.  They often have difficulty sleeping and focusing and react to daily stresses more emotionally than they would like, or, they shut down in the face of stressful events.  Physically, they tell me they feel tight in their body and they may have heart palpitations and/or feel like they have butterflies in their stomach much of the time. 

These are all signs of the nervous system being out of balance or “stuck” in the fight, flight, freeze or fawn response.  Here’s an excellent graphic showing what happens when our system is stuck in one of these responses.

Fight, Flight, Freeze & Fawn. image credit: Sydney Addictions Recovery

When our system is stuck, we literally don’t have the capacity to get to that “window of tolerance” shown in the centre of the graphic.  That’s because the limbic system, which all about alerting us to danger, high emotions and fight or flight, is running the show and the front of the brain, the cerebral cortex, which is the reasoning, problem-solving part of the brain has gone off-line.

As the next graphic shows, our system goes into “survival mode”, so it’s no wonder that we can’t calm ourselves down! 

Brain structures involved in fight/flight/freeze/fawn survival mode reactions

The goal then becomes to calm the nervous system down so that our frontal cortex can come back on-line and our window of tolerance, the zone where we can think rationally, make decisions from a calm place and not feel overwhelmed or withdrawn, can expand.

One way of calming the nervous system is through NeurOptimal®.  What it does is interrupt the flight, flight, freeze response at an electrical level, not at a thinking level, hundreds of times during a session, and over time the nervous system gets “unstuck”. The result is that the frequency, intensity and/or duration of some or all of the symptoms that clients have been experiencing come down. 

That’s when the magic happens! The “window of tolerance” gets bigger and problem-solving the daily stresses that come our way gets much easier. 

Once that window of tolerance has opened again, how do we keep it open and expanding even more?  Come back to our blog soon for the answer!

Navigating Stress and Uncertainty During COVID-19

I was very happy to be a featured speaker on Jacqueline Richards’ Destress, Dessert and Learn series to talk about how to navigate stress and uncertainty during COVID-19. Here is the focus of my talk:

Navigating the Stress and Uncertainty of COVID-19

As we continue to move through the COVID-19 pandemic, the clients I work with as a Neurofeedback, Brain Training practioner, are finding that their anxiety is increasing and they are having more difficulty coping.  Overall, I hear that more and more people are finding themselves more tired and stressed than usual.  Best-selling author Brené Brown says our bodies can’t deal with the pandemic in the same way we weather other crises.  Our bodies are built to respond to sudden or short term crises with an adrenaline response, a surge of energy or a super-coping response.  However, this pandemic requires that we be in a new and unfamiliar response for a long period of time and we need different coping mechanisms to weather this storm. 

Three benefits you’ll take away from this session are:

  • What happens when our nervous systems become overloaded
  • What are some tools that most of us can use to stay more steady and cope with the pandemic longer term
  • What does Neurofeedback offer when coping becomes more difficult