How to tame the bitchy monster in your head

Q: Sam, Stew, 31:

“I’ve recently returned to yachting after a couple of years away, and I’d completely forgotten how toxic it can be! There’s lots I love about yachting, but there’s so much crew politics and bitchiness going on, and I’d forgotten how intense it all is. I’m not pointing fingers here, I realise that I’m rapidly becoming as bad as anyone—I find myself bitching at crew dinners if the Captain isn’t around, complaining about our crazy Chief Stew to the other girls, and stewing (ha!) for hours over people’s comments that annoyed me. I want to stay in yachting for a few years to buy a house, but I can see yachting turning me into someone I don’t particularly like. How do you suggest I rise above it – is that even possible?”

A: The Crew Coach:

It’s funny you mention this, because not that long ago I was invited to a crew dinner by a friend, and it reminded me how volatile (and dare I say bitchy) the crew dynamic can be when you don’t get a handle on it. I remember it all too well from my time as crew, with everyone venting their displeasure about whichever crew member was public enemy number one of the moment, and getting all worked up about it. I completely get it- yachting is super-intense, and you don’t have any of the normal outlets to have a bit of a whinge at the end of a working day when you get home to your partner/friends/family.

The problem when everyone descends into a negative spiral of complaining about each other on a yacht, is no-one ends up feeling particularly good – either about each other or themselves. You know that feeling when you get all worked up about someone and let loose about them behind their backs…and then feel vaguely guilty about it the next day? It’s horrid. Even if you don’t like the person one little bit, it’s hard to truly like yourself and feel happy when you spend all your time expressing negativity! You could be having actual fun and making brilliant memories on your nights off the boat, not working yourself up into a pointless huff.

On a yacht the cycle of frustration, venting, and post-bitching guilt can easily become the norm of your entire season (and if you don’t watch out, possibly even your life), so you really have to nip it in the bud if you don’t want to get caught in the crossfire and have it bring you down too. So, it’s great news that you’ve observed this self-destructive tendency in yourself. The next step is to work out how to rise above it.

There are so many ways you can approach this, but you may be able to get quite rapid results from an extremely popular technique you may have heard of, called mindfulness.

What is Mindfulness really?

I know it’s a bit of a trendy buzz word these days, but it’s not really that complicated. Mindfulness simply requires you to actually watch what your mind is thinking, and start concentrating on the present moment rather than stewing over things in the past or worrying about things in the future.

When you learn to step away from that chatterbox mind of yours and calmly observe, you’ll soon realise that much of the day your brain is engaged in negative or unhelpful thinking. We have around 80,000 thoughts a day, and up to 70% of our time is lost in thought: a particular problem when you’re detailing a marble bathroom for days on end! The problem with being ‘lost in thought’ is that your brain will tend to fester over the things that worry you, the things that make you mad, the things in the past you can’t change, and even worrying about things in the future that might never happen! It’s not a particularly good use of time when you think about it.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing (and maybe even if you’re not convinced) I highly recommend downloading some mindfulness meditation apps. 10% Happier is a great one, with no-nonsense explanations of the science behind mindfulness and why it works, while Headspace is the most well-known, with great animations to help you along the way. They both have a series of meditations that take around 10 minutes, and it’s a great way to start or end your day, or even try on your breaks during charter to bring a bit of calmness back after a hectic service.

And before you start dismissing this as fluffy mung bean and incense hippie talk, this mind-taming, stress-beating strategy is being taken on by major corporations, the US marines, and all sorts of seriously non ‘woo-woo’ organisations, so it’s probably safe to secretly give it a shot without having to start saying Namaste to everyone in the crew mess every morning.

Mindfulness takes practice but it does get easier with time. Good luck taming your monkey mind! I think life on board will get much better once you manage to free yourself from all that destructive over-thinking and just start focussing on all the amazing, wonderful and interesting things that are happening all around you right this minute.

Let me know how you get on! Do you have any tips for taming that bitchy monster you’d like to add? I’d love to hear from you so please do add your comments below ?

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