STRESS & A Simple Yet Powerful Way to Handle a Stress Episode

by Monique Valcour, Harvard Business Review, AUGUST 27, 2015

The acronym RAIN, a tool used by many meditation teachers—originally developed by Michele McDonald—is a simple yet powerful way to handle a stress episode. It allows us to shift our perspective of the stressor from threat to manageable challenge, and to activate our own resources to meet the challenge with equanimity:

  • Recognition: Consciously take notice of what is occurring in your body and mind. For example, “My mouth feels dry and there is a pit in my stomach. I feel like an idiot.”
  • Acceptance: Acknowledge that the stress response is present and allow it to be here. This doesn’t mean that you’re happy about it, but giving up the effort to resist it is, paradoxically, the quickest way to help it subside.
  • Investigation: Ask yourself calmly what thoughts and emotions are present, what stories you are telling yourself. Following this technique, the candidate might have answered, “I can’t believe I sound so lame. I’m afraid that I will lose this opportunity, that I will not be admitted to business school, that I will feel like a failure in front of my family and friends, and that I won’t have a successful career.”
  • Non-identification: Having recognized, accepted, and explored the implications of your stress symptoms, the final step is to realize that although you are experiencing them, they do not define you. “I am having the thought that I may feel like a failure” is very different from and much more manageable than “I am a failure.”

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