Okay, I’ll admit it: I have a tendency toward emotional crash landings after prolonged stressful experiences. I can hold it together for 97% of the ordeal, but once we start getting close to home, I let go of my resolve a little early. I turn selfish, less willing to help or support others. I might lash out irritably if asked to do so. All I want is to curl up in a ball and not be bothered until I recover.

If I could make it to 100% — like, into bed with the lights off after the whole thing is over — I would get away with it; I might still feel this way, but no one would notice. I don’t think the meltdown is the problem, it’s the inability to hang on for that final three percent of the journey.

It seems like mindfulness practice ought to help with this. But there’s a catch-22: Prolonged stressful experiences often blow away the practice right when it’s most needed.

I’m talking about long travel days, big clean-up projects, insane work sprints, things that must get done above all else. I bet everybody has emotional triggers in that kind of situation. Isn’t that exactly when mindfulness training should kick in? It’s just like a distracting thought during meditation, right? You’ve cultivated the detachment necessary to see it, pause, and release it, instead of being swept away.

I still got swept away yesterday, though, and I don’t know whether I would have done better if I had meditated for 30 minutes beforehand. I certainly don’t think that single session would have undone my reactive tendencies. But maybe the state of mindfulness and receptivity would have been more available in memory. Maybe creating one good memory each day is what adds up to lifelong transformations.