The solution to drowning (or getting out of a rut)
Have you ever taken part in a greased watermelon competition?
When I was a kid I went to camp for 2 weeks every August. During the second week the whole camp participated in the camp olympics. Teams were made up of kids from every age group and we competed throughout the week in different events, one of the most exciting being the greased watermelon event. Teams would line up on either side of the deep end of the pool, a greased watermelon would be thrown in the middle (fun fact: watermelons float), a whistle would blow and everyone would jump in and try to push the watermelon to the other team’s wall. The first team to get the watermelon to the opposite wall won. It was always really exciting, everyone screaming and yelling from opposite sides of the pool, pushing to try and get that slippery sucker to move.
Until you are stuck under everyone’s kicking feet and you can’t come up for air.
It was fairly terrifying, the burning pressure building up in my chest, the heat of tears behind my eyes as I tried to figure out which direction to go. It was the early 80’s- we didn’t get caught up over safety then.
This is how I feel a lot these days. It is that same burning pressure and tightness, the same unexpected heat of unshed tears. It can come on in an instant, moving from fun and games to unexpected panic.
So how do we navigate these unexpected fluctuations? How do we stay afloat in a time of uncertainty? How do we look past the panic of the moment to still work on things that matter to us?
There is actually a simple answer that can be amazingly helpful; describe the physical sensations.
Do you get burning in your throat or tightness in your chest? Maybe it feels like creepy crawlies in your gut, tingling in your fingers or a vice like feeling around your head. Have you ever taken any time to think about what these things physically feel like to you? These are all physical symptoms that can come on when some immediate danger is present, like being trapped beneath the surface of a pool. But these symptoms can also be present in our day to day lives as our brains speed toward all the possibilities of what can happen and react before anything actually happens.
These are just physical symptoms of our brains trying to protect us.
So I take a minute and notice the tightness, the burning pressure. I tell myself “I have these physical symptoms again, it is just a thought error.” I can have these symptoms and go on with my day. I don’t need to react. The more I notice and describe them, the less power they have. And then I decide what I will work on that will matter in the future. Things still matter in the future. I will come up from the bottom of the pool.
What do you feel during the day? Take a minute the next time you are feeling stressed or sad or restless or maybe just in a rut. What do those feel like in your body? How would you describe it to me if I asked what those feelings did to your body? Now, if those sensations don’t mean anything is immediately wrong, can you live with them? Can you prep healthy food with those feelings? Can you home-school your kids in some kind of crazy math with those sensations coming along for the ride? Can you write a blog post with your chest on fire?
The future still matters. Don’t let your primitive brain sabotage you. Scoop up whatever feelings you have and carry them along as you decide what you are going to do today for your future self. I have faith in you.
P.S. Our team won the watermelon contest.
Make sure you never miss a post! Join the mailing list for my Friday newsletter.
If you think this may be helpful to a friend or family member who is struggling, please share it to them!