Riding the Wave

I love the ocean and especially floating in the waves. I find it truly calming and peaceful. Think about the last time you were in the ocean. When a wave came on, did you stand up, brace yourself and let it crash into you? Or did you let it carry you gently and ride along until it rolled off to shore?


I like to compare difficult feelings to waves. If we try to fight them or try to ignore or avoid them they will ultimately knock us off our feet and take over. Have you ever been hit by a big wave when you didn’t see it coming or tried to resist it? I know I have and it’s a lot more difficult to get back up when I struggle against it than when I go with the flow.  If we face the wave and dive in, or let the wave pick us up, we will come out on the other end intact.

The same goes for difficult feelings. During an anxiety attack, for instance, we can often sense the rush of panic coming on. The symptoms of anxiety feel different to everybody but if you’ve experienced one before, you may recognize the signs of an anxiety attack. Whether it’s shortness of breath, nausea, numbness or tingling, or chest pains, these feelings can be unpleasant, overwhelming and downright scary.

Like a wave approaching, these feelings might roll towards us slowly or they may seem to come out of nowhere and all at once. Either way, they are coming. Trying to resist the unpleasant feelings is like trying to stop a wave– you can ignore them, you can stand up to them all you want– but they will hit you and they may take you under. Accept the oncoming wave, ride along with the motion, and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.

Riding out unpleasant feelings like anxiety might sound like losing control, but it often takes their power away.  When we acknowledge the feelings for what they are and how they feel, we are also acknowledging that they can’t harm us and that they are temporary. Remember that an anxiety attack can be gone in a flash or last up to 10 minutes– an uncomfortable 10 minutes, no doubt– but just as a wave rolls out to shore, it will pass.

Letting the wave carry you can be unnerving or scary, but fighting it will knock you down every time. Whether you’re struggling with a noisy mind or an anxiety attack, you have to accept the inevitable in order to get through it.

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