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When You Feel Like You’re Drowning

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Have you ever had a time in life when you feel like you’re drowning? You know, these are the times when something happens to you, someone says something to you, you see something with your own eyes that sends your mind into some sort of overdrive.

Time seems to stand still, the people around you are talking and moving about around you but you can’t really hear them or even see them. Then in the next moment, their voices, the bustle that is going on around you puts you into sensory overload and your ears feel like they are going to burst. Your eyes try to squint out the light because the sheer magnitude of the light makes your brain hurt.

Have you ever been here? Have you ever felt like you’re drowning?


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I know I have.

While there are little stressors that have screamed for my attention, made my blood pressure shoot through the roof in a mere moment, and made me want to collapse in tears all at once, I have really only experienced that sheer feeling of not being able to catch my breath kind of drowning I mentioned above twice. If I never experience that again, that will be just fine with me, too.

As I read chapter three in You’re Going to Be Okay, I was immediately transported back to the time and space that I most recently felt like I was drowning. As I read the author’s words, I immediately began to feel a sense of empowerment, a sense of peace, and knowledge that if I ever get to that place again, I will be equipped to handle this sort of moment so much better.

If I had the time, I would have read this chapter over and over again, all day long. I loved this chapter, I wanted to breathe in this chapter to the very depths of my soul, and I wanted to bathe in the truth that his chapter holds.

I like to highlight important things that speak to me as I read, and I had to avoid the desire to cover this entire chapter in the florescent yellow of my highlighter.

I had several favorite quotes here, but I think the one that resonated with me most is found on page 49 of my book and it reads, “But over and over again I’ve seen that what ultimately takes women down is not their circumstances but instead their responses to them.” 

A bit later on that same page she says, “We can learn to be resilient, have peace, and press foreword even in challenging times.”

That. That right there is what I needed to hear. It’s what I already know to be true, but reading those words in print made them undeniable.

This chapter reminds me that while the valley we’re in can feel endless, it never really is. I was reminded that although we may feel like it does, no one moment, no one challenge, and not even one season defines who we are.

I was reminded that choosing to respond with intention takes work. In many ways responding to negative situations in a positive way is like engaging in battle against our human tendencies. So often, in order to be an overcomer we have to work tirelessly in order to do so.

This doesn’t scare me, does it scare you?

In fact, being reminded of heading into battle with myself makes we feel powerful. I don’t have to become a victim to the circumstances that surround me, and I look so forward to unpacking all the tools that this book holds that will better equip me to do that.

While I am far from perfect at navigating tumultuous waters, I have found the following steps to be helpful in being an overcomer when I feel like I’m drowning.

1. Pause

When the rug is pulled out from under me, I need to pause first.

2. Remove

Next, I need to remove myself from the urgency of the situation that is screaming at me. While I can’t make the situation disappear, I do not have to be a victim to the fight or flight feeling that tragic news evokes within me.

3. Breathe

The author references this as well. Taking a couple of deep breaths always does a mini reset on my physical and emotional self.

4. Ignore

Of course I can’t ignore this or any matter forever, but both of the experiences I have had with my world falling apart have happened in a crowded place with plenty of family members and others around me. I have learned that I must force myself to ignore whatever happened until I get to a time and place where I can process the situation.

5. Smile at someone

It will feel fake at first, and it most likely will be, but the benefit in smiling at someone is that they will most likely smile back. Even a smile from a stranger in these moments of sheer panic can be a lifeboat to your sinking, drowning feeling.

6. Pray

I am a Christian, and at this point, prayer comes next. It may only be a “help me” kind of prayer, but prayer is what I need next.

7. Seek the refuge of others

While it might seem natural to escape in these moments of urgency, I find the opposite to actually be more valuable. If I escape to be by myself right away, I fall apart before I can control myself better. Being around others forces me to function, to keep it together, and to begin gaining control over those fight or flight hormones that have flooded my body. Being forced to be “normal” for a bit allows me to keep a more level head rather than give into an emotional episode too early.

8. Plan

Plan the time that I will bring the situation to the forefront of my mind and begin to process through it. For instance, I may choose 9 p.m because that’s what time my kids will all be in bed and quiet. In those moments when my emotions threaten to take over before 9 p.m., I can hold on to them knowing that my time will come.

9. Anticipate

Anticipate the time you have planned for. Anticipate the time when you will share with a trusted friend or begin processing alone. Anticipate the time when you will be able to let go of all the emotions that have building up or just get some much needed rest. Anticipate being able to put pen to paper or spend time drawing strength from resources such as the Bible or another source that brings you peace and comfort.

10. Process, but do so slowly

When the time comes, resist the temptation to make any rash decisions. These kinds of decisions are rarely ones that are based in logic. Proceed with caution, proceed with care, proceed with plans, decisions, and steps that are based in logic rather than emotion.

While we can’t control what happens to us at times, we can control the choices we make surrounding everything that comes our way. The next time you feel like you’re drowning, walk through these 10 steps to take better control over your responses and reaction.



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