Improving Tarot readings when times are tough


Written by Rachel Perez Wallerstedt
Storytime Psychic Alliance

Most Tarot readers feel they read with more clarity when their own mind is clear and calm. Difficult situations, however, tend to turn our brain to scrambled eggs: high levels of stress trigger our brains to start operating in survival mode, prioritizing short-term thinking over long-term wellness. If a clear mind is such an important tool to bring to our Tarot readings, how can we nurture ourselves when we are feeling lousy? How can we get in the right mindspace for Tarot during tough times in our lives?

Play Tarot games

Tarot Card Social  with Storytime Psychic Alliance at Edge of the Circle Books

Tarot Card Social with Storytime Psychic Alliance at Edge of the Circle Books

Playing games with the Tarot can boost our creativity and change our perspective on life for the better. For those of us who are used to seeing the cards primarily as sort of paper life advisors, let’s consider expanding our repertoire on the tool of Tarot.

Stressful times may make it difficult for us to feel as though we’re receiving clear wisdom from our cards. Sometimes, hunting for the wisdom can make us feel more stressed than comforted. Wisdom can wait; during these times we ought to play with our cards. We can ask our decks to describe our favorite desserts, our fashion sense, or our taste in romantic partners. We can draw a few cards and construct a story based on what we draw. The possibilities are numerous. When we are playful with the Tarot, the cards give our conscious mind something to focus on while we develop stronger intuitive skills.  Tarot games are enjoyable solo activities, and may even be mood-boosting when we play with friends.

Use spacetime to gain perspective

Oliver Hibert Tarot

Oliver Hibert Tarot

Sometimes during periods of low energy and high stress, we feel a brain fog that makes it difficult to focus on anything in the present moment besides acute emergencies. In fact, we may find ourselves inviting crises into our lives too easily because they afford us temporary clarity during stressful periods. During these periods, Tarot can reflect our own anxieties back at us, giving us scary and unhelpful readings. What can we do when our mind gets stuck?

Changing our space and shifting our attitude toward time can get us unstuck. We can take the Tarot cards to a new place and get a feel for how their messages change depending on the setting. For instance, a deck that feels glum cooped up inside may flourish on a camping trip in the woods. Other decks may enjoy the sawmill smell that comes from being surrounded by books, and some may come alive at parties. Tarot is highly responsive to its setting, and playing with the cards in different places can refocus uninspired readings.

Tarot also has an interesting way of describing and playing with time. If we are quite stressed, it can feel like our burdens last a lifetime and like the joys of life slip through our fingers in a second. Tarot is there to remind us that all time is tied to cycles and stories. Thus, we never really lose time, we just notice shifting cycles of life. The Tarot loves to divine the current stage of our life cycle. Furthermore, the messages that Tarot offers may take what feels like a long time to us to manifest in the story of our life. Rather than forcing our will and impatience on the waiting periods, we can take an easier attitude and trust that we will find the path eventually.

Invite the energy of cards into your life

Ethereal Visions Tarot

Ethereal Visions Tarot


Once again, we return to the idea that Tarot reflects the cycles and stories of the human psyche. Each card depicts a certain aspect of life, loaded with symbolism and evocative of common memories. These qualities make Tarot a rich tool for random-sequence divination. The pictoral messages of the Tarot can also be used deliberately.

How can we use Tarot deliberately? The process of inviting energy into our lives through Tarot starts with selecting cards that represent whatever it is we’d like to manifest. For instance, a person studying for exams may choose The High Priestess and the 3 of Pentacles, representative of higher knowledge and hard work. We can spend a few moments throughout the day or week looking at the cards and drawing inspiration from them. This process helps us focus the specific energies we need in our life. It can also help to remind us of our long-term goals, which encourages us to make wiser life choices.

Treat your body right

The Wooden Tarot deck

The Wooden Tarot deck


One reason reading Tarot seems difficult during hard times is that when life becomes overly stressful, we tend to retreat into our mind and ignore our bodies. As we lose connection with our bodies, we lose our connection to our senses and our intuition. This tendency is understandable in situations that the human body is built to face, such as running into a hungry pack of lions or wolves.  Paying too much attention to our bodies under these dangerous circumstances could slow us down, so our minds propel us toward survival by increasing our focus on escape and decreasing it on the unpleasant body sensations that come from running away.

Our bodies have not adapted fully to the modern industrial world. Our threats come primarily from other humans, either through direct violence or, much more commonly, through social interactions that threaten our status. All danger feels more or less the same to our bodies, so it relies on the same strategy to escape the danger: increase cognition, decrease sensory input. Even though things like toxic work environments and dealing with debt won’t necessarily kill us, we treat these situations as chronic states of danger in our bodies. 

What happens? We ignore our bodies and get stuck trying to solve our problems using the mind alone.  Ultimately, this only causes us more stress as our bodies suffer neglect. Neglected bodies are not psychic bodies.

If we want our Tarot readings to feel clear during times of stress, we must intentionally make the space in our minds to consider our bodies. “Taking the weather report” of our bodies and stepping outside of our thoughts to consider the question, “how might we expect any person with a body that feels this way to behave?” is healthy, and it encourages the kind of objective self-reflection that yields insight from the cards.

Get serious about meditation 

Rider-Waite-Smith deck

Rider-Waite-Smith deck


Meditation is the cultivation of a mindset which is non-reactive to both external and internal stimuli. Often, we fear that the practice of meditation is intimidating, tedious, and overly mystical. While it can be all of those things, meditation can also be simple, is accessible to everybody, and even a very little bit of it, done consistently, offers benefits.

For those of us willing to delve deeper into meditation practice, I recommend using a timer to shut down all screens and simply feel what five minutes feels like when we are present in our body. When that feels comfortable, we can use these short segments of time to train our brains and bodies to experience things without reacting to them. This is the stage at which traditional meditation techniques are likely to start feeling comfortable.

Because meditation helps us remain calm and also encourages open-ended creative thinking, it’s a valuable exercise for enhancing our Tarot reading during stressful times. A full post on meditation will be coming to the Storytime Psychic Alliance blog soon; in the meantime, for anyone interested in expanding their meditation practice, I recommend the book  The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It teaches how to reframe the voice of the ego and learn how to avoid the tendency to identify with it. 

Final Thoughts 

If we want effective readings, we need to be kind to ourselves. The Tarot helps us get to know our own stories, and if the story that dominates our mind is dark and grim, our cards are likely to reflect that back to us. Shifting our mindset and cultivating patience helps us pay attention to our intuition, even during stressful situations. The calm, curious attitude that comes to us when we let go of stress is an attitude that yields rich Tarot readings for us all.

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