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12 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You're Drowning

12 Tips for Surviving When You Feel Like You're Drowning

I’ve spent more time in the last eighteen months fighting to stay above water in a storm-tossed ocean than I have standing on solid ground. 

Some days show up rockier than others. There are mornings I see the waves coming the second I open my eyes and then there are times I’m taken completely by surprise. Oddly, my rough-water days aren’t always the ones that come with crisis or high drama. 

Here’s my theory. When I get a break and take a second to breathe, the adrenaline rush keeping me in the fight dips and I go under. 

I hate those days because they take me off guard. They steal my momentum. I’ve found it’s often easier to maintain than fight my way back to the surface after I’ve already started sinking.

You don’t have to be drowning in an ocean to resonate with what I’m saying. We all live those days. 

Maybe you’ve lost your footing in a lake. Or found yourself paddling in a pond. On the surface, your life might not look as bad as everyone else’s. But deep inside, your circumstances feel pretty weighty. 

When you think about it, a growing pile of stones settling on your chest one at a time can do just as much damage as being crushed by a boulder. 

So wherever you’re at, when you wake to one of those days, here are some practical things that help me make it through until tomorrow. Maybe some will work for you.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

  • 1. Give your day to God.

    Ground yourself before you even get out of bed. Spend a moment praying, asking God to give you the grace and strength you need for the day ahead. Don't dwell on the particulars of your day -- focus on God, his awesome attributes and his all sustaining grace.

  • 2. Stretch.

    Take a slow, deep breath. Then five more. Breathing is a natural relaxer, and can calm your spirit and ease your anxiousness. Focusing on your breathing and not the problem is a great way to calm down and get your mind off what is stressing you out.

  • 3. Be kind to your body.

    How you feel physically affects your state of mind. Eat something healthy that gives you energy. Drink something that calms you. My favorite is mint tea. Avoid caffeinated beverages or anything that will make your heart race more than it already is. 

    Take a minute to walk around, get your body warm and blood flowing. Then take a moment to stretch, thinking about each part of the body that is being moved. This is a perfect way to steady yourself and be physically present in the moment.

  • 4. Slow down.

    Take a decadent time-out for yourself. I like to take a hot bath—even in the middle of the day. What helps you slow down? Maybe it's a good book or gardening or even a phone call with a friend... take a moment to settle down and stop frantically moving from one task to the next.

  • 5. Distract yourself with someone else.

    While your gut tells you to hide, buddy up on your bad days. Choose someone who soothes, not stresses you. Call a friend and then don't talk about yourself-- ask her how she's doing, what's going on in her life and how you can pray for her. And then listen. Thinking about someone other than yourself can only help you calm down and put your problems into perspective. 

  • 6. Solve your easiest problem.

    Any accomplishment, baby-size or not, allows you to take a step forward. And progress feels good. 

    When a situation feels overwhelming, break down the to-do into managable, baby steps. For example, maybe you need to buy a new car. Make a list of little things you need to do to make that possible (finding a dealership, taking a test drive, price comparing, etc). Then decide which step is possible today and try to do it. Don't worry about the end result, just take the best next step.

  • 7. Give up control of your biggest issue.

    Understand you never really had control of it to begin with. It’s amazing what God will do when we completely let go. The freedom and peace we begin to have when we let God handle our worries and fears is amazing.

  • 8. Center your focus outward.

    When you least feel like giving of yourself, that’s the best time to reach out. Do one nice thing for someone you love, or better yet, a stranger. 

    This can be as simple as paying for coffee for a stranger. Doing something to make someone else smile is a quick way to ease your fears and bring you back into the present.

  • 9. Put your issues in perspective.

    Your situation may be bad. But things could always be worse. Even while I’m bleeding on the inside watching my son battle cancer, he’s here for me to hug every day. 

    This doesn't mean comparing pain... it's useless for me to feel bad because someone is suffering "worse" than me. But understanding how we all suffer helps us feel not so alone in our grief and fears.

  • 10. Dwell on a time God’s gotten you through.

    Dwell on a time God’s gotten you through a similarly heavy situation instead of hanging onto the hopelessness of your current condition. Nothing lasts forever. Focusing on God's great might and salvation is a helpful way to keep hurts in perspective.

  • 11. Ask God for a blessing.

    Then open your heart so you don’t miss what he gives. Because he does want to bless us. He loves us. It might feel strange to ask God to bless you, but he delights to bless us! 

    If you pray for God to give you blessing and strength to fight the day's battles, he always answers that prayer with a 'yes.'

  • 12. Pick a verse that touches you and hold it close.

    Here’s what I chose for today. 

    “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV).

  • Don't Give Up.

    I’m no stranger to crisis, trauma, fear, suffering, anxiety, or depression. But here’s what I know. Each time I’ve been stranded in that endless ocean, I’ve made it to the other side. 

    I haven’t always seen Jesus paddling next to me, felt his hand holding me up, or heard him whispering encouraging words, but I’ve looked back on every one of those hard times and understood he’d been there all along. 

    Are you drowning today? 

    Don’t give up. Hold on. Keep swimming. You will make it to the other side. Life won’t always look the way it does today. One day you’ll wake up and realize it’s become much easier to breathe.



    Lori Freeland is a freelance author from Dallas, Texas with a passion to share her experiences in hopes of connecting with other women tackling the same issues. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a full-time homeschool mom. You can find Lori at lafreeland.com.

    Image Credit: Thinkstock.com, Unsplash.com