Burn Out - Are There Any Real Answers?
Onboard Summer 2022
We all know the feeling. It’s mid July, the season’s been rolling on for three months, and you’ve got another two to go AT LEAST. Your feet hurt, your eyes hurt, your limbs feel like lead and you’re fighting the urge to flop to the floor and flail about like an over tired toddler. It’s bleak. It’s reached the point where you’re fearful that if you roll your eyes any harder, you may dislocate one. Or actually see your own brain. Everyone is annoying. You’re annoying. God even reading this is annoying. Ugh. So tired.
There are tons, hundreds, nay thousands of articles and guides on the old tinterweb about this phenomena they call “burnout”. Amusingly, most of them flag up that burnout victims “have trouble disconnecting”. Lol. How does one disconnect when you live, eat, breathe, sleep and do everything, EVERYTHING at work? There is no escape on yachts. Even your cabins are not a safe space – how many times have you been on a break and there’s been a knock at the door asking “could you just…”? Replying honestly with a “No, Karen, I’m eating a magnum and crying, f**k off” is evidently frowned upon, especially when you’re the captain. Also apparently wedging your door shut is a fire hazard so that’s another no no.
So how on earth are we meant to be able to keep going in a marathon length season? Well depending on who you speak to there are many schools of thought on this subject. If you’re sensible, you’ll drink lots of water, avoid caffeine and alcohol, you’ll have good people around you (or in your phone) to talk to, you’ll probably meditate and/or do yoga, eat a balanced diet, you’ll limit your screen time, get a good night’s sleep and you’ll get a good amount of exercise. Easy right? Ha ha haaaaaa. Easy if you work in an office, in a 9-5 environment. Not one to brag but I work in an office and I still get burnt out. So there’s no hope for any of you. Anyway, I think it’s a fair assumption to make that coffee/caffeinated beverages/energy drink consumption rockets in high season. Have you ever borne witness to the absolute carnage that ensues when the coffee machine in the crew mess breaks? Terrifying. I cannot stress this enough, there is always room for a big emergency jar of nescafe somewhere. You don’t want to see those non morning people before they’re adequately caffeinated on a normal day, let alone mid season when things are breaking and owners are demanding. Mmmm bitter go go bean juice make me go faster. Go on have one. Join me. I didn’t say I was a saint.
Most crew messes have stashes of haribos, choccy bars and snacks right? I imagine it’s quite frustrating for the chef who’s taken time to create healthy well balanced nutritious meals for the crew (because that’s easy when you’re dealing with 8 charter guests and their delightful offspring’s demands for 27 different mealtimes per day) and then see them tucking into sugary crap and bags of chips. When you got woken up 3 times in your allocated sleepy time due to alarms/noisy guests/guests demanding food/your bunk mate sleeptalking, sometimes sweets give us a little pick up. After all, they do say “kids and grown ups love them so the happy taste of haribo” don’t they? They do. If I’m exhausted I always reach for a healthy handful of nuts or perhaps some celery. I am lying, I do not do this. Again, not a saint.
When there’s all of 24 hours between one drop off and the next pick up, shall we go for a run and make protein smoothies? Or shall we go and have a couple of beers and some nachos anywhere away from the crew mess looking at the same faces? Actually even the same faces in a different environment will do, especially when they’re holding adult beverages.
Now, limiting screen time always makes me laugh. You’re reading that on a screen. In an online article. Let’s face it we’re not going to do that. I just read some advice to yacht crew about not going on your phone on your break and instead, “do something that will nourish your soul”. I’m sorry what now? I’m in a sweaty cabin, I have half hour til I go back out and drop kick someone on deck and you want me to what? Stop it. Tell that to the decky who’s just facetimed his mum and is now in the head dropping the kids off at the pool whilst watching tik tok videos about the blackout challenge or whatever the new trend is. Nearly said tide pods there, ooof showing my age!
Perhaps instead of beating ourselves up that we didn’t manage to do yoga in our cabin at 5am because our cabin mate accidentally dropped her hair straighteners on our leg (ow) and singed the carpet, we could try and accept the fact that we’re not all perfect, and many of us might well be figuratively in the same boat.
Stop comparing yourself to some perfect stew Instagram blog, or some you tubing ripped deckhand who went surfing with the guests, it’s highly likely absolutely nothing they’re saying is true. All it does is make you feel like a flaccid turd and that’s a rubbish way to start your day. Stop believing everything you see, stop thinking you need to do better – all you need to do is get through the season a day at a time and feel grateful for the experiences. Try to focus on the positives. For example, Deckhand: “Today I did not fart in front of my crush, the junior stew. Today was a good day.” Gotta take the little wins.
Anyway if you were hoping I was going to give you advice on how to avoid burn out I’m sorry but that’s not my bag. I’m terrible for checking emails out of hours. And now, Microsoft emails me once a month to tell me how shit I am at taking time away from work. It sends me a delightful pie chart under the pretence of being “insights” to illustrate the fact that this month, I spent ZERO days off my emails. And it also tells me awesome facts like I answer emails and messages out of office hours every damn day too. So yeh, I’m not going to get all preachy and tell you to do pilates. In fact I’d probably just suggest you open a bottle of wine with a friend instead. Or on your own, I told you I’m not judging and I keep telling you I’m no saint.
We can all be virtuous, we all know what we should and should not eat, we are all well aware that we should do some exercise, and do some sort of mindfulness thing, but sometimes, we just can’t be arsed. So don’t be too hard on yourselves if you’re reading this on your phone with your 7th cup of coffee of the day, shit happens, remember to focus on the little wins and if it’s all gone to crap – well tomorrow is a new day. Hang in there champs you’ve got this and think about that end of season bonus and holiday. And if you’re still feeling like a flaccid turd, remember – you can’t polish a turd, but you CAN roll it in glitter.