Urge surfing is a helpful technique when your way of dealing with stress and overwhelm is particularly unhelpful, unhealthy or harmful. 

For example, if your automatic response to feeling overwhelmed is to over eat, use substances or self harm, then this technique is an important one to learn and practice. 

The goal of this technique is to delay acting on the urge, until the feeling of the urge goes away. 

One way to think about an urge is like the urge being a wave and you being a surfer. A surfer doesn’t fight against the wave or run away from the wave, instead, they ride the wave until they reach the shore. Urge surfing is about riding the emotional wave. Not fighting with the need to resist the urge, and not giving into the urge. Simply noticing the urge and letting it run its course. 

Mastering this technique will take some time, patience and practice. But once you are able to get the hang of it, you’ll be better able to regulate your emotions in a helpful and healthy way. 

The easiest way to practice urge surfing is to set timed intervals between when you first notice the urge, and when you allow yourself to act on the urge, and then do something during that time to distract yourself and keep you busy. 

Things you could do to distract yourself could be to:

  • Phone a friend
  • Read a book
  • Go for a walk
  • Take a bath or shower
  • Do some arts and crafts

The more you practice this skill, the easier it will be for you to ride out the urge wave and not let the urge dominate your thoughts. 

If you are struggling with managing unhelpful thoughts or urges, please book an appointment with one of our psychologists

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