THE EMOTIONAL RAINCOAT – One Secret to Dealing with Red Zone Situations

Even after we recognize Yellow and Red Zone people and situations, it is not always possible to avoid them.  Sometimes we are forced to deal with those difficult situations and challenging people. One of the secrets to deal with these stressful challenges is the Green Zone Concept called the Emotional Raincoat. The Emotional Raincoat is like going into the scorching sun,  wearing sun screen. It is the mental, and often times, practical preparation to deal with stressful situations.

Let me explain it with a personal example. There was a time when I would get very stressed when I was struck in Toronto traffic on my way to an engagement. I do not like being late. I think it is disrespectful. So I asked myself, how could I create an Emotional Raincoat to protect myself from the Red Zone traffic and not feel embarrassed if I am late. After a lot of reflection I came up with these solutions. The first solution was that I called my friends before I left home so that they knew that I had left on time. They reassured me that it was okay if I was a few minutes late. The second solution was that I bought a few of my favorite music CDs, like Kenny Rogers, Gipsy Kings, Kenny G and some Indian Classical music, so that if I am stuck in traffic, I could hear that calming music and stay in my peaceful Green Zone. Those things acted like my Emotional Raincoat for that Red Zone problem. So the idea is that for each Yellow or Red Zone situation we need to create an Emotional Raincoat. Once that Raincoat is created, then we can relax in that situation.

When I was developing the Green Zone Philosophy, I realized that the goal is not only to decrease the uncomfortable Red Zone Hours, but also to increase the happy Green Zone Hours. We suggest to our clients and friends to dedicate one hour a day for themselves. I have met many women who spend all their time looking after their parents, husbands and children but ignore themselves. I tell them that the way a car cannot run on an empty gas tank, a human being cannot be happy on an empty emotional tank. I ask them to start looking after themselves and find ways to fill their own emotional tanks. I suggest they take an hour a day and do what they love to do – go for a walk, do some exercise, watch a funny movie, listen to music, take a long bath or have a nap. By having a Green Zone Hour people start getting re-energized. Gradually an hour becomes two hours and then the whole evening, then the whole day, then the whole weekend and then the whole week. It is amazing to see how Green Zone Philosophy helps people take control of their lives. People start visiting, then living in their Green Zone, and gradually develop their Green Zone Lifestyle.

I share with my patients that traditional medicine and psychiatry is illness oriented. Traditional doctors and psychiatrists try to control symptoms with medications, thereby decreasing Red Zone situations, but Green Zone Philosophy is health oriented so we try to encourage people to make their Green Zone bigger so that their Red Zone becomes smaller. As I mentioned last week, keeping a Green Zone Diary helps people see their progress. And when they are feeling discouraged I ask them to read their Green Zone Diary which gives them hope and helps them become optimistic.


Dr. Sohail

14 thoughts to “THE EMOTIONAL RAINCOAT – One Secret to Dealing with Red Zone Situations”

  1. Dr Sohail,
    Yesterday at our family meeting we had an unusual session, instead of discussing our usual ” let’s talk about the weeks low points ” with our teenage boys we had “blog post reading and discussion” session .Discussion went from detachment to the Nihilism, boy it was interesting.
    Please write something about Nhialism as a philosophy and ” lifestyle”.
    Boys loved the venue and want to do this more often.

    Peace !

    1. Dear Nauroz, I remember you had Green Zone Family meetings when your sons were small. I remember the story when your youngest son wanted to know when the meeting was because he had to discuss his dilemma because his older brother had broken his pencil. I am so glad they are older and still interested in Green Zone Philosophy. Can you ask your sons to send me a few lines about their concept and understanding of Nihilism and I would love to respond.
      Peacefully, Dr. Sohail

  2. Hi Dr. Sohail,
    That is great advice, but what can you do to protect yourself from red or yellow zone people and the situations that evolve from exposure to them? I am asking because I would like to prepare myself for the situation I may find myself in very soon. I may have to deal with these types of people on a daily basis? How can I stay healthy in my green zone, while successfully dealing with people who are not in the green zone?

    1. Dear Franklin, You have asked a million dollar question. It seems you will be exposed to a Red Zone System with Red Zone Relationships. Since systems are emotionally stronger than individuals, it is very hard to live in one’s Green Zone while exposed to a Red Zone System on an ongoing basis. Can you look for a Green Zone System? In the meantime if you have a couple of Green Zone friends who can help you process Red Zone situations and offer you support. Even your awareness will help you minimize the emotional damage. You need a long term solution. All the best.
      Dr Sohail

  3. Thanks for providing me personally with MANY raincoats over the years! Heck, the Creative psychotherapy Clinic is a veritable SAFE HAVEN from the storm for me. So, thanks again Dr. Sohail and Bette… you are appreciated greatly.

    Paul M.


    The Blog and Site look great… good job!

    1. Dear Paul, Thanks for your kind words. I am glad you found a few emotional raincoats in our clinic that you can use whenever you need. I am glad you like our Blog and website. I hope your Blog on music is progressing well. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  4. Thank you Dr. Sohail for suggesting the concept of Emotional Raincoat to deal with Yellow and Red zone situations. One cannot avoid such situations no matter what and developing and effective raincoat seems to be the best defense mechanism.

    1. Dear Malik Jahanzeb, Awareness plays a big role in mental health. Once we identify the emotional triggers and emotional raincoats then we gain some confidence to deal with those situations in a peaceful way. I am happy that you are following our Blogs and sending your comments. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  5. Great advice on de-stressing while in a stressful situation – the Emotional Raincoat. Toronto traffic is the perfect example of being stuck in an anxiety inducing situation. I recall driving into Toronto with a destination arrival time being important. The traffic was heavy and then the anxiety began … I am going to be late. That’s when the Emotional Raincoat slipped in place. Two things came to mind: 1. There is nothing I can do about the traffic. 2. I need to arrive alive rather than maimed or dead. It’s really that simple. When I look at it that way it takes the anxiety and tosses it out the window. The same with ‘must-do’s’ – as a woman I tend to set really high standards for getting a lot done in a short amount of time. I believe it’s both a genetic plus and also a flaw. We push and push ourselves to cram as many ‘must-do’s’ into a day as we can – often our expectations of ourselves are ridiculously unreasonable. When we don’t accomplish all that we set out to do we feel overwhelmed and disappointed that we didn’t achieve all that we planned. In this situation – at the beginning – when the anxiety starts – that nagging feeling that I have so much to get done and feel myself pushing and almost panicking about getting it all done – there again, I have learned to slip on the Emotional Raincoat and it goes like this: “It will all get done. And it will take as long as it takes. I have confidence in my ability to prioritize the importance of certain tasks – OR – what I physically, mentally and emotionally feel comfortable working on at the moment. Something amazing happens then – once I have given myself permission to be ‘human’ and not be overly demanding of myself – to move at a more steady pace, rather than trying to race – some of those ‘must-do’s’ fall by the wayside … they drop off the list as being unnecessary after all. Superwoman gets to be a well balanced gal who moves through her day or situation with some ease. That liberation in actuality adds to the ‘Super’ in the woman …

    1. Dear Georgina, I like your ‘super’ woman suggestions to be realistic. I am optimistic that other Blog readers will benefit from your suggestions. I hope you send your suggestions in the future as well. We can all help each other as we are all connected with each other at many levels. Native Chief Black Elk said, ” No great thing can be done by one person alone.” Peacefully, Dr Sohail

  6. I agree about developing an emotional raincoat. I often leave earlier than I need to so that I am not late. I call from my car if I do get stuck in traffic. I listen to 60’s on 6 on Sirius XM in my car to keep myself calm. The more I am in my Green Zone the more I can enjoy the journey to wherever I am going. I always say getting there is half the fun.
    I used to write a daily journal when I was back in university in 1993 and 1994 getting my teaching degree. I used to surprise myself at the things that ended up in my journal. My journal often took me to new understandings that I did not expect. I have got out of the way of that and your blog is a reminder of how important it is for me to get back to that.
    I like the fact that the Green Zone is all about choices and opportunities for healing.

    Here’s to a bigger Green Zone,

    John Jeffery

    1. Dear John, I am so impressed how you have incorporated Green Zone ideas not only in your own life, but also introduced them to the lives of your students. Every Green zone person is a Green Zone Teacher. Stay in touch. Peacefully, Dr Sohail

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