How not to panic and WTF does it mean...

I have been in some heavy situations. I cant think of anything more stressful then trying to bring someone back to life.

What does DON'T PANIC actually mean and how it could save your life!


I wrote this blog for swimmers and surfers with drowning prevention in mind. But our bodies can go through a Fight or Flight Response from little things like a text message, an argument or even seeing something on social media that you don't like. Ill put a simple 5 minute #breathing exercise at the end of the blog. let me know if you try it!

If you can control your breath, it might save your life.

As a Lifeguard with 18 years experience I know its exactly what a person drowning goes through. Panic. They expel all their energy and could potentially drown and die. (there was an record number of drownings in Australia in 2017)


The goal in both situations, mine on a big wave, and the other person struggling in a rip is to remain calm and not to panic.

But WTF does that actually mean? When we are drowning or about to go under a big wave (relative to our own perceived skill set) is when our body releases stress hormones for the FIGHT or FLIGHT response where many physiological and psychological responses/changes occur in our bodies #adrenaline is released, heart rate increases, respiration rate goes up, blood flow changes, blood pressure increases, pupils dilate, all to provide energy and a burst or strength or reflexes that in different situations we may need to run and escape a wild animal or alternatively fight your life, these responses in the body are inbuilt and have been developed over millions of years of evolution.

Back to you! If you are stuck in a rip or a current, your natural instinct is to fight it and get to shore as quickly as possible to avoid danger, I have witnessed this many times, and most people don't make it back to shore.


Most people get tired and this is where it gets dangerous. I have witnessed people die and in some cases get bought back to life with CPR. This is why the safety message from major lifesaving institutions is to remain calm. You want to conserve energy to preserve life as I also know in most cases (not all) rips or currents take people onto a sand bank. Also, staying calm and keeping afloat as long as possible increases the chance of being rescued. For the surfer getting thrashed around under a big wave I see the analogy very similar here to the swimmer fighting. The natural instinct is to fight your way surface as quickly as possible to get that mouthful of air that you desperately want, again as your body is charged full with adrenaline. As with the swimmer this natural instinct is not going to serve us best here, Mother nature is in control and the best plan of attack is to not fight against the ocean but try to relax as you are dragged and tumbled round and round in circles (in the case I do round my shoulders and put up my arms to protect my neck, spine and head possibly getting slamed into the ocean floor) and when the wave has passed that is the time to make your way to the surface. These are two functional examples of where breath and ones ability to control the body and mind could save a life. Whilst this is a blog post about drowning, its also a blog about breath because bringing this awareness of your bodily responses can help us in every day life. As a Personal trainer explaining anatomy of breathing mechanics is something I do with all my clients and as a Yoga teacher, breath-work is the foundation of the class.

5 minutes of breathing meditation.

Sit down on the floor cross legged (if you can if not a chair is ok too) turn your phone onto aeroplane mode then close your eyes and try to relax. For just 5 minutes out of your day you are going to just sit and breathe.

Your intention is to focus on your breath inhaling and counting in for a 3 or 4 count and then increasing this breath count as you heart rate settles and you sink deeper into relaxation and oexhaling out for the same count. If other thoughts pop into your head, SMILE then come back to your breath. Start with 5 minutes a day and see if you can increase to 10 or even 20 minutes over time. Let the thoughts come and go and your mind and body will thank you for it. I promise!

Deano x

Dean Gladstone2 Comments