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Home > Crew Matters > Resilience


As we enter the second year of this global pandemic many of us are finding that our initial optimism for a quick recovery is staring to wane and that we are dealing with enormous levels of anxiety, stress and uncertainty about the future.

Extraverts have found being restricted in terms of movement and social interaction really difficult and now, even my introverted friends and clients are starting to climb the walls, metaphorically or physically.

We are hearing about higher levels of loneliness than ever before, of people struggling with FOMO (fear of missing out) and being endlessly immersed in social media, which causes us to compare our lives and what is happening for us, with what we see others doing and achieving. “Why am I not losing weight, developing a six pack, raising millions for charity and doing a course in yogic breathing..!?” The reality of those ‘other lives’ is probably not quite as easy breezy as it might appear, that doesn’t stop us from feeling resentful though.

Add to that not having the freedom to travel easily, to see our friends and family, to choose where we go and what we do and even to having people in our lives who are directly affected by the virus and you have a situation that can lead to dissatisfaction, higher levels of stress and emotional upheaval. When we are feeling this way emotions run high and it can cause conflict and even mistakes and accidents at work.

That means that now, more than ever, we need to think about how we can bolster our resilience.

There are six core elements to resilience so let’s have a look at each of these in turn and see what we can do to shore ourselves up against the next wave of challenge!

  1. Sense of purpose.

Keeping in mind why we do what we do helps us to see our value and to ‘keep going’ when things get tough. So perhaps you have a plan for your longer term, a career goal or a ‘life after yachting’ entrepreneurial project, a family to take care of or just to find a place to ‘be’ and the security to enjoy it.

Ask yourself:

  • What is your ‘purpose’ (see last month’s article!)
  • How much is your behaviour driven by your values and your goals?
  • What are the goals you want to achieve for yourself?
  • How will you feel when you achieve them?

I have spoken to many crew members who have said that when things get tough, they remind themselves that they have a plan, and that tomorrow is another day. As long as what you are doing is driving you in the right direction to achieve your dreams, keep doing it. If it isn’t – stop, think and adjust your sails.

  • Positive Realism

Taking a positive but realistic view of what can be achieved will lessen the impact of a ‘bad day’ when it seems as if everything is going wrong.

Ask yourself:

  • What can you do to help you think positively about difficult situations?
  • How do you stay realistic about what can be achieved?
  • What are realistic expectations of others?
  • What are reasonable expectations of yourself?

I use a simple mantra when other people are acting up and making my life difficult. It is STAY and stands for Stop Thinking About Yourself. Essentially when you change your perspective and look at the situation from theirs what you do is take the focus off you and put it firmly on them. Take the control back, remember it’s not you – it IS them. You decide what you want to think and feel, and so do they. So be realistic about your expectations of others and of yourself. When things go wrong, ask yourself what you learnt, if you have learnt something, however hard it was, then you have learnt something that will help you in the future and that is a win.

Perspective is really important and that old adage of ‘there are children in the world who are starving!’ that you might have heard from your parents, is true! There is always someone worse off. What really makes me stop and think is how many of these people appear to be more resilient than I am, brave, unstoppable and positive in the face of insurmountable physical, environmental and emotional challenges. That gives me courage to step away from my own angst and focus on what is within my control and away from the things that aren’t.

  • Determination

Persevering in the face of difficulties gives us a greater sense of achieving and worth at the end of the day that simply having a great day every day and being successful at everything, and that’s a fact. Any of you who have faced a fear and done it anyway, made it through a trauma, a mental or physical illness or a loss and are still here to tell the tale will be able to testify to the strength it gives us.

Ask yourself:

  • What action do you need to take to ensure that you keep going until you achieve your goals and tasks?
  • What will help you to persevere when you encounter difficulties?
  • What else can you do to resolve the problem you are facing?
  • How can you be more flexible in your thinking when things go wrong?

Sometimes this is about having a support system around you, people who will hold you to account, bolter you when you need it, a ‘go to’ ear for you to spill your worries into which will pay you back in encouragement and support.

Some of use get this from other sources such as exercise, yoga, breathing and meditation or even from our children or our pets who can often be such great teachers of how to live simply.

Please also be your own support, the last thing you need in these moments is to be giving yourself a hard time!

  • Self-awareness

Understanding ourselves and how we respond to situations can help us to keep things in perspective and keep ourselves under control.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you assess the impact your behaviour has on others? (guests, crew mates, family & friends)
  • How can you assess the impact the behaviour of others has on you?
  • How can you identify your strengths and where you need to develop?
  • What can you do to build on your strengths and tackle your development needs?

There are lots of ways you can learn more about how what makes you tick, psychometrics, coaching, counselling and loads of books on the market. ‘Emotional Intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman and ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Dr Steven Peters are amazingly helpful. This also helps you to understand how and why other people’s behaviour affects you.

  • Self-management

Positively managing how we act and communicate makes us more productive and protects our well-being.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you stay focused on what is within your control and your influence?
  • How can you work with your crew mates to manage difficult situations better?
  • What can you do to manage stress and re-charge your energy levels?
  • What will help you to believe in yourself, trust your own judgement and maintain confidence?

Remember that the only thing within your control is YOU, within your range of influence are other people around you who are more likely to be influenced by you if you are positive and proactive, and outside of all of that are external factors that you cannot control or influence so there is little value in spending your energy on those.

Ask people for help and for feedback if you know that there are times when you are feeling especially vulnerable or if you don’t cope or respond well to certain situations.

Make time to read, listen to music, exercise, socialise with your crew mates or call your family and friends when you feel stressed out. Each of us has their own preference for de-stressing, so find yours and make sure you let people know that you are using your break to take some time for self-care, and you’ll see them afterwards. To create an onboard culture which normalises self-care one is one of the best ways to keep people physically and mentally safe.

To believe in yourself and maintain your confidence, try some techniques from NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) like listening to a track that takes you back to a time when you were really on your game and rocking it! Or call that friend who tells you how amazing you are and why. Look at photos of things you have done that were incredible and made you happy. Use your good memories to feed you with what you need to stay strong and enable you to make more of them.

  • Relationships

Giving and receiving appropriate support to and from your crewmates, friends and family is vital to maintaining self-esteem.

Ask yourself:

  • How can you provide more support to others?
  • How can you get the support you need?
  • What can you do to actively involve others in what you do?
  • What will improve relationships and communication with crewmates?

It’s amazing how helping others and offering them support makes us feel better too. If you are always taking and never giving of yourself then you will soon be labelled as a mood hoover! Make sure you ask how others are and if they need anything too.

Let people know what’s happening with you and how they could help if they are prepared to and remember that it goes both ways.

Finally, if you don’t know what will improve communication and relationships, ask! It’s that simple (even if it does require a degree of bravery!)

In summary, resilience is like any other skill or quality that you have, and you have plenty of them. It can be developed, it can be strengthened, and you can get better and better at it, so have a go and let’s all hope that when we do finally emerge from this storm we will all be stronger than ever, and stronger together.

Love, Sara 

Sara Ballinger