“It’s weird. One of the most peaceful feelings is when you get pulled under a big wave and you’re completely helpless under the water. You learn to get relaxed as it crashes down above you and rolls you around. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Talking the other day with two friends who live on the California coast, we landed on the topic of surfing. Both shared the same experience. With a big wave coming at you, getting pulled under and rolled around under the swell, you learn to find calm in the chaos. I asked them, “Isn’t that super scary?” Both answered with the same answer. “No. Once you realize that you just need to let it pass by, it’s actually quite peaceful.”

Think about the last time life came at you with a big wave and rolled you over. Bad news at the doctor’s office. A rough patch in a relationship. Challenges at work. An unexpected financial hit. 

Here’s the question we need to ask ourselves. When we’re getting rolled in the surf, how can we let go of our fear and anxiety? We’re all going to have those “big wave crashing” experiences in our lives, so what can we do to find peace and calm when we’re getting pulled under? It’s easy to feel relief once we come up for air after a big challenge, but how do we find peace when we’re under the water?

It’s a tough question, right? Here are a few tips for those moments when life is pulling you under…

  1. Expect Adversity – The first thing to do is to expect that life will pull you under from time to time. I’ve heard it said like this, “You’re either approaching a trial, you’re going through one right now, or there is one on the way.” None of us are immune or protected from life’s challenges – we shouldn’t be so shocked when they come at us. As a surfer, when you paddle out into the waves, it comes with the expectation that you will eventually get pulled under and rolled around. When you’re expecting it, you can prepare for the moment, and it’s less scary.
  2. Practice Gratitude – Even in the midst of whatever challenge you are dealing with, you have something to be thankful for. In fact, you have many things to be grateful for. Look for those things, find them, and focus on them. If you are reading this right now, you have eyes that can see and some kind of device to view this on. Compared to many people on the globe right now, you likely have a long list of things to be thankful for, even when the waves are crashing and rolling you around in life’s surf.
  3. Find Perspective – Grab a paper towel roll, and look through it. When you do this, you can only see a tiny portion of whatever space you’re in. Put the roll down and look at your world again with both eyes wide open. Your perspective shifts in a big way when you do this. Seeing our struggles for what they really are can be very similar. Challenges that seem massive in the moment can actually be very small when we take a big-picture view of them. Perspective is everything. 
  4. Feed Your Spirit – Wherever you find your faith, being rolled under the waves means it’s time to feed your spirit. You need to look up to see the light that’s shining through the waves. Personally, this has meant leaning into prayer, scriptures, and quiet time as I am feeling pulled underwater. My faith saved me as I’ve journeyed through divorce, blending a new family, and starting a business. Your faith may come from a different place than mine. Regardless, a strong spirit can bring amazing levels of peace to situations that should only feel chaotic and distressing.
  5. Envision the Future – When you’re being pulled under the water, resilience comes when we look toward our future. Using surfing to paint this picture, as you’re holding your breath under water you need to remember that you’ll break through the surface soon. Your next breath is just a few moments away, and so you need to make that your goal. Peace and calm come when you can envision that next breath and know it’s seconds away.

The Takeaway

Adversity is a part of life, one that none of us can escape. In fact, the more risks you take and the bigger things you’re trying to create, the more challenges you may face. Learning to find your calm when the waves crash, and to be comfortable when they roll you around, is a powerful skill. Use some of those tips above to build your resilience and find your calm when life pulls you under…

Join me here and I’ll send you more content like this to help grow our resilience and strength together!

– John