Has life just felt incredibly heavy lately?
Do some days just feel overwhelming?
I get it. I feel it too.
Right now I am dealing with a very sick family member and Covid restrictions that not only keep us from our loved ones bedside, it keeps us uninformed. We feel overwhelmed, scared, sad, frustrated and most times, helpless. And I know I am not the only one feeling this way.
I actually described to a friend that it felt like I was drowning and just needed to find a way to keep afloat until either life calmed down, or I found a way to get stronger.
And that’s when it hit me. I actually did almost drown in the ocean about 26 years ago. And I survived.
It was one of the scariest moments of my life, and now all these years later, I re-discovered the tools I needed to stay afloat in a whole other way
My husband and I were in Cancun, Mexico and there were black flags posted on the beach which indicated the surf was rough that day and you really shouldn’t swim.
I thought I was being very careful and only waded into waist deep water when I found myself caught in a riptide.
As a teenager, I had trained and worked for years as a lifeguard and I swam competitively as a child, so I knew exactly what to do. But when I tried to swim along with the current, my neck got caught in a rope that was used to mark off the designated swimming area. So I was caught. Since what I was trained to do was not going to work, I had to find a new way to survive.
Thinking back to that moment I realized there were three things that kept me alive until help arrived to save me. And now I realize those same three things might help you too, when you feel like life might take you under.
Here is what I can share:
- Don’t panic– The very first thing I remember saying to myself is “Sherrie, just don’t panic”. I knew that most people who did not survive, were those who panicked. So I tried to keep my mind calm and just be present in the moment. You can use this same piece of advice when life seems like it hopeless and when you feel helpless. Don’t panic. We make our biggest mistakes and worst decisions when we are allowing our minds to lose control. Whatever you do try to remain as calm as you can.
- Go with the flow– The waves that day were huge, as a tropical storm had moved out the day prior. Even though I was standing in waist high water, the waves came crashing over top of my head and were so strong they pulled me further out into the riptide. My instinct was to pull myself out of it, but something inside me told me to just roll with it. Lean into wherever the wave was taking me. If I fought it, I knew I would use up all my energy and I would eventually lose. If it let it wash over me, I could use my energy to come out of it.
- Breathe– Each time a wave came over me, I would take a deep breath. I breathed as deeply as I could, as I had no idea how long the next wave would last or how long it would hold me under. And I would take deep breaths over and over and over. Breathing is essential to staying alive it is also essential for keeping yourself calm and giving you time to press the pause button.
In the end, a lifeguard came and literally stood arms length from me and plucked me from the riptide. He saved my life. But the tools I used were things that were crucial to keep me alive until my rescue. I believe these same tools can help keep you going too.
Granted, someone might not be able to physically rescue you from what you feel might be pulling you under, but these tools, when used, can help you stay calm until an idea comes to you, or until you have settled your mind down, or until that panicked feeling passes. So remember don’t panic, go with the flow and BREATHE!
These could be the tools that pull you through too.
Sherrie Dunlevy- #Inspirationista, is an author, speaker, podcast host and Graduating Grief Specialist. She is the founder of “Graduating Grief” a community designed to help women step out of the pain of their loss and step into living and LOVING their lives again, by providing support, encouragement and tools to move forward. To find out if you are ready to Graduate from your Grief take the free quiz at www.graduatinggrief.com