I think most of us have felt this way, or perhaps are in the thick of it. The thing with feeling like you’re drowning, is that it’s hard to trust that you’re not going to actually drown. You’re not like, “Oh, I know I feel this way now, but I won’t feel this way forever.” You’re like, “I feel like I’m drowning, and I’m either going to feel this way forever, OR I’m actually going to drown.”
What does it mean to drown? It’s important that you know what your brain is telling you. For me, to drown means that I’ll fall into a deep depression and not be able to get out of bed, and become a burden to my family. For some of my clients, to drown means taking their own lives, or hurting their children. For others of my clients, to drown means to fail at their goals, or their purpose in life.
No matter what to drown means to you, it feels very scary when your brain is telling you that your only options are to feel like you’re drowning, or to actually drown.
What I want to offer to you is that drowning is an emotion. It’s a feeling. Feelings are sensations in our bodies created by thoughts in our brains. When we feel like we’re drowning, it’s because we are believing thoughts in our brains, which then sends sensations to parts of our bodies. It’s NOT created by our circumstances.
Don’t think I’m saying, “It’s not real, this feeling of drowning.” It’s for sure real. But the good news is that it’s created by thoughts. The thoughts may feel true, but they’re actually optional.
What are some of these thoughts? I’m failing at everything. I’m ruining my kids. I’ll never measure up. No one is helping me. I’m all alone. I have to do everything. I can’t do this.
The thoughts may be different for each of us, but the first step is to notice where we feel the emotion of drowning. Is it in your chest, arms, stomach, feet? Is it heavy or light? Is it fast or slow? Is it open or closed?
For example, I feel drowning as a heavy weight on my chest. I also feel a constriction in the top of my throat. It’s slow and closed. I also feel it in the top part of my arms as a sensation that’s in between burning and super cold. You know when you touch some metal and for a split second you’re not sure if it’s hot or cold? It also feels like a clenching throughout my whole body.
When I figure out where it is, I relax into it. I relax my shoulders. I take deep breaths. I like to close my eyes. I like to welcome the feeling as if I was just wearing a really tight body suit.
Right about now, my brain wants to freak out and say I’m going to die. I remind myself that it can’t kill me. It’s just an emotion created by sentences in my brain.
When you feel like you’re drowning imagine when you’re trying to teach a toddler to float. You have them lie on their back and you hold their head above the water, and maybe even their back. Some toddlers hate this and they’ll squirm and turn over and flail their arms. But when they really trust you and hold still and relax, they will start to float.
This is what we’re doing with feeling the emotion. Relax into it. Breathe deeply. Shut off your brain that’s telling you you’re going to drown. Trust that this emotion can’t kill you. As long as you are flailing your arms and saying you don’t want to feel it, you will continue to feel it. As the saying goes, “What you resist, persists.”
P.S. If you want help with this exercise, set up a Free 45-minute Consultation. I would be happy to walk you through it. Relax my friend. I’ve got you!