Chris Bertish – When you Panic, Don’t Panic.

One of the most extreme examples of dealing with panic that I have read about comes from Chris Bertish.  It is not an obvious source of inspiration, because (as far as I know) Chris does not suffer from anxiety and depression.

Chris Bertish Image

“When you panic, don’t panic!”

Chris is an amazing individual; not only is he a big wave surfer (he won the 2010 Mavericks Big Wave Invitational) and adventurer, he is an inspirational figure who shows that with courage and determination you can achieve your dreams.

Putting himself in what only can be described as life threatening situations (on purpose); Chris has had to learn how to control panic.

Chris Bertish Sup
On December 6, 2016, Chris Bertish began the first ever, solo, SUP Trans-Atlantic Crossing and all for charity. Paddling the equivalent of a marathon every day for 120 days, over 4500 nm (7500 km)

The quote comes from Chris’ book ‘Stoked!’ he tells of being smashed by a giant wave, trapped underwater and unable to breathe…..

Firstly, let’s just put ‘Big Wave’ Surfing into perspective:

“Each cubic metre of water weighs a little over one ton.  So you quite often find yourself staring up at a wall of water (possibly 60ft high) weighing in at over 500 tons.  Imagine how it would feel if 300 cars were dropped on your head.  The bigger the wave, the faster it moves, so these big boys are moving at speeds of between 30 and 50 kilometres per hour.

When you’re riding down and across these giant beasts, you’re going twice as fast as this.  Get it right, and you’re in for the adrenaline rush and thrill of your lifetime.  Get it wrong, and the force of one of these waves can push you down over 12 meters deep in a split second, and hold you there for over a minute with a force that feels like it’s trying to rip you limb from limb.

All this time you’re remembering not to panic, even though you’re underwater and will only be able to get to the surface to breathe when the ocean allows you to, and not when you chose.”

Chris Bertish 2

“In situations like this it’s so important to control your emotions and your thoughts, to slow everything down and calm your mind.  If you don’t, you’ll panic even more.  This will cause your worst nightmare to become a reality, and you will drown….”

So why am I using this as an example of dealing with anxiety and depression?  After all, there are only a handful of big wave surfers, and it is certainly not something I am ever going to do myself.

I guess for me anxiety and panic can be like being in a storm or surf; emotions rolling in like relentless waves, constantly pounding you, your muscles tensing as the thunder rumbles overhead, and not being able to breathe feeling like you are drowning.

Drowning - Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash
This is not Chris…..

While a panic attack is not as violent and life threatening as big wave surfing, Chris’ example proves that panic can be controlled, even in an extreme environment, so it gives me confidence that I can beat my panic.

Living in the present moment is so important for all of us, especially if you struggle with anxiety and depression.  The problem is that it is so hard to do, there is no switch that you can use to control it; what I am learning is that it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to try and control panic.

Chris had to train hard both physically and mentally in order to take on big waves; he had to learn how the seas and oceans work (as far as you can figure out a force of nature) and the science of a wave, as he says:

“I’m a great believer that you should prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Preparing for the worst is not pessimistic or negative thinking- unless you are acting out of fear.”

For me, it is not just about learning how to deal with the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression, it is also about looking at lifestyle choices, emotions and thoughts and seeing how a combination of all of these parts affect me.

So that’s it, that’s what I want to achieve; when I feel I want to panic, I won’t panic…..

I just need to give myself the time to learn the skills I need, remember to try and live in the present, and most importantly to cut myself some slack when things do not go according to plan.

Thanks Chris…..

Here is an Amazon link to his book ‘Stoked!’

Thanks you, thank you, thank you

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