keep head above water
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keep (one's) head above water
1. Literally, to hold one's head out of the water as to avoid drowning. This lifejacket will help Sally to keep her head above water in the pool.
2. To (barely) avoid being consumed by a stressful or unpleasant situation (often related to work or finance). If credit cards are the only thing keeping your head above water, then your situation is more dire than I thought.
keep one's head above water
1. Lit. to keep from drowning when swimming or floating. (See also get one's head above water.) I was so tired I could hardly keep my head above water.
2. . Fig. to manage to survive, especially financially. We have so little money that we can hardly keep our heads above water. It's hard to keep your head above water on this much money.
3. Fig. to keep up with one's work. It's all I can do to keep my head above water with the work I have. I can't take on any more. We have so many orders that we can hardly keep our heads above water.
keep one's head above water, to
To avoid financial ruin; also, to avoid being overwhelmed by overwork, too many commitments, or other excessive demands. This saying, with its analogy to being drowned, dates from the early eighteenth century. “I have almost drowned myself to keep his head above water,” wrote John Arbuthnot in John Bull (1712).