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Crew Compass: It’s OK to admit things are not OK

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Crew Compass: by Lauren Loudon

All the media attention on increasing  concerns about mental health in recent times raises interesting questions that can be related to anybody. I’ve seen a few posts on social media lately from fellow yacht crew opening up about  the topic of mental health on board, and it made me think about the bigger picture: How do we stay healthy on board from a mindful perspective?

Our lives are so fast-paced, and it’s often true that we don’t get a lot of time to ourselves. That can mean to work out physically, or simply to be alone with  our thoughts and reflect inwards. Both physical and mental health are equally important, yet are two very different things.

We may be able to step off the boat for a morning run or do some weight training on the fly bridge in our spare time, but what about talking and letting our emotions flow? 

It’s intense to be in an environment surrounded by other people 24/7, and even more intense when personalities collide, but have you ever looked closely at the behaviors of your crewmates? Have you seen them break down or have an emotional outburst for seemingly no reason? More importantly, have you been there for them?

On charter or guest trips, we are working at 110%, our brains and bodies are on overtime, and sleep is often in short supply. We give our all for those periods of time and exhaust ourselves to ensure we are doing our best. This often means that, in turn, we are not at our best. Our true colors show in times of stress and exhaustion, and often those are the moments that cause riffs between crew members and colleagues. 

In between guest trips, we usually have far more relaxed work hours. We have time to ourselves, and we can regroup. In some instances, our work lists are very short, so we have the luxury of sitting back with our feet up. Maybe not literally, but more or less.

In an industry where we are on such a roller coaster of highs and lows, ups and downs, fast and slow, we need to make sure that we have time for ourselves to focus on our mind, body and soul. There is so much more to keeping healthy than lifting a few weights or running a few miles. It’s about taking a few breaths, a few moments – and sometimes even releasing a few thoughts, having somebody that you are able to open up to about any burdening emotions.

Most of us will feel homesick at some point. We will be mid-charter when an important celebration is going on back home that we are missing out on. We will be hundreds of miles away from family on anniversaries, or far from friends on their birthdays. We will miss our parents, our siblings and our friends. We will crave home comforts some days. We will miss weddings and even funerals. We will carry the burden of pain due to being far in distance sometimes, and we will struggle with the time zone differences when trying to communicate with people. 

We might have personal issues at home that we are dealing with. There’s an abundance of reasons that we could be feeling down. There’s also the same, if not more, reasons that we could be feeling happy and blessed, but nobody needs to know why you are smiling. We need to know why you are not smiling.

The important thing to remember is that it’s OK to feel sad. It’s OK to cry. It’s also OK to talk about it. What’s not OK is to judge our fellow crew members for being a bit snappy at the end of a long charter season or for wanting to have a little space on an early morning. 

I’ve heard too often of people worrying about being judged for being upset, and therefore bottling up emotions for too long, which, as we all know, leads to worsened feelings. The fear of overstepping the line between work and personal lives may prevent us from sharing what we are truly feeling. But at the end of the day, our crewmates are our family, and we need to make sure that we are there as a family support network for each other, both on and off the boat, on and off charter. 

No matter how amazing the industry is as a whole, and despite the perks of the job we have, being isolated is hard. So let’s remember to be there for each other and offer an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on and an open heart to give love. Sometimes somebody’s long face is far deeper set than from just being tired.

Lauren Loudon has worked as a yacht chef for more than four years. She hails from Lancashire, England. Comments are welcome below.

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