Life is overwhelming at times. Sometimes, you feel like you're drowning—like you're running out of air and can't get a breath.
The cause could be anything from failure or disappointment to an abusive partner or parent.
It may be the ghosts of your past: your upbringing, your past emotional wounds, or a damaged view of yourself.
One event triggers another, which triggers another, which creates tidal waves of discontentment and anxiety washing over you. You're trying to stay afloat, but these internal waves of hopelessness are trying to sink you. Each wave is stronger and more insistent, pushing you deep into the violent tow of the ocean.
Don't let feelings of helplessness and hopelessness overwhelm you. Here's how to find your footing in the midst of the storm.
1. Acknowledge what pushed you in.
Something triggered you. Get clear on what it was. Know for yourself what your trigger points are. Acknowledge those occurrences that pull you into this place of hopelessness. It's usually very specific trigger points that lead you back to the ocean of negativity.
Once you identify the people, the incidents, or the interactions that trigger your anxiety, you can be more aware of them the next time they show up.
2. Notice the waves.
You don't have to swim against the current of the storm. Sometimes just sitting back and observing can help you realize things aren't as bad as they seem.
3. Look for solid footing.
You can't drown if your feet can touch solid ground. If you're afraid, you might start swimming so frantically that you don't realize the ground is just beneath you. No matter how violent the waves around you, you can deal with them if you have a firm footing.
Find your grounding. Maybe it's a mantra; maybe it's an activity. Once you have grounded yourself, you can choose options, make decisions, and walk toward safety.
4. Remind yourself you have a life vest.
You have all kinds of tools at your disposal. Ask yourself what you need. What would slow the waves and make it easier for you to breathe? Is it time for journaling? Meditation? Yoga? A walk? A trip? A checking in with your roots?
Within you is the inner calmness and safety, the inner wisdom and certainty that everything will be fine. Remind yourself you can swim. If you didn't know how, you wouldn't have made it this far. No matter how serious the suffering or how high the waves, you made it through.
5. Flag down a lifeguard.
You have many of them in your life, though you might not have realized it. They've shown up during difficult and trying times. Those are the people you need during the tough periods.
Reach out to a friend, family member, or professional to help you weather the storm. People don't know you're struggling unless you share it with them. Asking for help is neither embarrassing nor shameful.
Instead of focusing on what triggered you, focus on the process of getting back to safety. Instead of breathlessness, focus on breathing. Instead of all those things you can't control, focus on what’s in your power right now.
Use the tools, people, and resources available to you. Touch the ground, reach out to a lifeguard, and breathe. The shore is a lot closer than you think. Calmer days and peaceful waters are within your reach.