• Sailing along with your emotions

    Disclaimer: While I have training in counseling and mental/emotional health. I am not a liceneced therapist. These are just my opinions to start peaceful conversations with ourselves and maybe others.

    It’s none of your F@#$In# business”

    That was the response my client received when he asked a customer, now standard screening questions upon entering that business. Very similar questions you would get entering All Body Care. As my College mandates I ask them, to not ask them violated my license. No license no job, so we ask.

    Daily, every day, every single day some to several customers swears, belittles or ridicules them (the business employees) for complying with Covid screening protocols.

    Now, I do not think people wake up in the morning thinking, “hmm, today I am going to completely flip out on some random stranger, who is just doing their job.”

    But daily I get people from all walks of life and that is what I hear is happening. What is going on? Well I wrote about this in my last blog post you can read here.

    In this one I am going to give a couple of more stories on how to manage yourself, because in my opinion the world stress is going to stay at “high” for a while yet. You need to stay on course.

    Santana 525 race at KYC

    This leads us to the sailing analogy. How to stay on course.

    Sailing is a odd mode of transportation. You leave a dock and head to the next island, to a marina and a new dock (what you tie the boat up to.) Now it is a rare thing to actually sail the boat in a straight line to the destination.

    The ocean currents, winds and waves are all in motion. Things are in your way like other boats, reefs, islands or storms. All of those things can move you off course.

    I am going to tell you about a little sailing trip I had with some great friends and sailors from Sint Maarten to Bonaire.

    On the dock in Sint Maarten

    When sailing someone needs to keep an eye on where you are going and what is happening. There is a desired course, or map direction, on where we want the boat to go. Because of wind, waves etc there can be some changes to the course. But we make corrections so we END UP AT OUR DESIRED DESTINATION!!! The trick is to make the corrections in a timely manner.

    Nice wind in the Southern Caribbean
    Crazy holly crap wind in the Southern Caribbean

    In the storm pictured above, it was completely a surprise. What we call a ‘squall’ and it was wild. Things were snapping, breaking and important things quit working. It hit during my shift at 4:00 am in complete darkness. One moment all was wonderful. The next moment my neck hairs stood up and I jumped to reduce sail.

    Reduce sail: the big white sheets above the sail boat are called “sails”. The more area above the boat, the more surface area the wind can push on. Which can make you go faster OR if the wind is too strong push the boat over, which is a bad thing 300 miles from shore.

    As it was pitch dark that night, I felt something was happening. I was not sure what as no storms were forecast and nothing really indicated a storm. But something was happening, when in doubt get less sail up.

    As I put the head sail (forward) down, our skipper always had the main at a double or triple reef at dusk to dawn (less sail) just to be careful. Well did it pay off that night. As I turned around from the mid ship to go back to the steering station the storm hit. I was knocked back and instantly soaked with rain.

    I lived on a cruise ship for 6+ years and have been in 16 hurricanes. I have seen plenty of big wind and waves. However This was the first major wind storm I had been in a sailboat and wow was it crazy. The noise, the force of the rain, the difficulty of controlling the boat.

    It did not take long for things to start breaking and stop working. We started all sorts of pre-discussed procedures for different emergencies. It was not getting better, our morale was starting to deteriorate.

    Then our experienced Captain noticed our mood was deteriorating and started to make jokes about what great time we were making and how he wanted to buy a new chart-plotter anyway.

    From that we snapped out of it and embraced the absolute chaos of the seas and rode it out. Made great time, have all kinds of great stories and walked away being tested and things went okay. Some moments of fear and doubt and others of testing our training and experiencing it working.

    Safe in port from another trip to Desolation Sound, BC.

    Okay, still with me. Lets get to the business of navigating feelings and emotions in a real stressful situation.

    Step #1. It’s going to be ugly at times. In a ‘real’ stressful situation, it is only NEGATIVELY stressful if you are not an expert at it. Think about it, if you are used to singing in front of 50,000 people. Then it’s just fine. If you are used to singing in front of 50 people, it will not be fine.

    You may do all right and the audience may not have noticed your nervousness, but you will. It will require you to stretch and grow, as the old saying goes.

    A key to step #1 is to notice if it’s going ugly, or if it’s going okay/good. Like when you are sailing, if you don’t even notice you are off course. You can hit the rocks and that’s no good.


    Step #2 When it starts to go bad, you need some pre-determined plan. The time to plan is before the emergency. As the emergency will not fit your exact training but it will be closer than nothing.

    Lets face it Covid-19 is a disaster or not. But no matter what you believe it is affecting your life. That affect is putting many people off course, likely you as well.

    Have a conversation with yourself about how you will regain your course when that affect starts to effect how you are interacting with yourself and others.

    As I have said before keeping your food, water, sleep, mild exercise and fun quotients up is a key. Most people’s lives have been changed and when we have to accommodate those changes it takes energy from us, that we would have used somewhere else in the past.

    Therefore we are operating in a slight deficient state. It’s like a storm at sea. You can sail in it, it just takes a bit more energy, it’s harder and there can be some perceived fear and anger. (I was angry the weather forecast did not mention this ‘little storm’ we encountered.)

    When you meet someone that is ‘not in their best state of being’. How are you going to respond. I can not control how others act, I can have some control on how I act. To do that I need to keep an eye on my course (behaviour).

    When someone cuts me off in traffic, or gets upset when I ask them the Covid screening questions. How am I going to respond to them? I am a bit stressed out over this, I have watched my stocks go down, my aging parents and relatives into lock down. My travel plans scrapped…..

    In a moment of calmness I ask myself if I was to yell at them how does that help me. I am not initially worried about them. I am really worried about how I feel about my actions when I go home at night.

    When I am confronted with a complete A@#H*(( my plan is to take one slow deep breath and see what happens. If they take a swing at me, well that’s a different conversation. But so far NO ONE EVER HAS.

    Come on have you met me? If they ain’t punching me, they likely ain’t punching anyone.

    That pause does all kinds of interesting things to most people. Most people at some level notice I just relaxed. They initially really don’t know what to do about that. Now I actually relax, some people do the breath thing to show scorn, or that teacher looking down at you in the desk thing. That’s not relaxing, that’s a completely different energy.

    I breath, I think about something really nice and I smile internally, sometimes externally as well. The other person about 30% of the time will apologize on the spot. If they say and do nothing, I gauge the situation and often say, “tough day?”

    I breathe again and just wait. 69% of the time they soften and regroup a bit. the 1-2% of people continue their rants and I just have to end our interaction and understand what they are going through is bigger than I can solve for them. I hope their yelling at me has helped them cope a bit because it’s got to be something to yell at a stranger, thinking your making your life better.

    Step #3. This likely will not work for you the first few times. Like pretty much every thing else we try. The first few we need to expect so/so results. It helps if you don’t expect yourself to be an expert in anything in a few attempts. (I normally give myself 5 years before I judge my actions against others)

    What do you do when it does not work? What ever you are doing now. You have made it this far. Think about your interactions with yourself and others and contemplate how you could have made that interaction kinder.

    A quote on my wall is: I am more sure of what is kind than what is right.

    Can you think of a month in your life when it all went well? I can’t, then why are we surprised and so easily angered when stress happens? Normally it is because we have not really thought about preparing for that stress.

    A brief recap: Covid sucks.

    If it was not Covid it would be something else. It’s just with Covid we, globally have a higher negative stress load. With regular global stress, it is more varied.

    Some people have high and other low stress. It’s still that way, but I observe everyone is a bit higher than normal base line.

    Think about how you would like to respond, actually respond. It is all fun to say, “I’ll show that #(&#&^ who’s tough”, really? It’s all good on TV, but if you would like to know what violence is like in real life, just ask me sometime. It’s terrible.

    Ow and if you think you are in personal danger from someone, get immediate distance between you and them. It is uncommon for a stranger to freak out and attack another, but it does happen, rarely. But if you feel danger, act by distancing yourself to a safer position.

    I again say, be kind. It’s really kindness to yourself. The other person also benefits, but it’s mostly for yourself.

    Breathe. Take a slow breath. Relax your shoulders, feel relaxation.

    I have taken a dozen courses and have dealt with a lot of yelling people in my Cruise Ship days. One time they put me on a stage in front of 900 very angry passengers and there was absolutely no way to fix the problem. It took a bit, but they came to see things my way.

    The amount of ways to respond to angry, scared, fearful people is endless. But I will say it one more time, breathe in and out slowly, relax your tension. Realize they don’t know you, if they do – that is a different problem.

    Ensure your physical safety, keep your voice natural and calm and do your best. There are so many internet resources and strategy’s for each specific story.

    I’ll finish with two stories.

    I was at Rona. There was a long line outside and I was #2 in line. The #1 guy decided to unload on the store clerk at the front. Well half way thru his yelling the strapping 25 year old store clerk took a step towards the guy and pumped up his stature.

    Then proceeded to tell the customer how he’s standing there 8 hours a day and if he did not want to wait the 15 minutes he can go pound sand and leave. The customer luckily backed right off and said no more. The clerk let him in the store.

    I asked the clerk how many times a day he needs to do that. He said ‘all day long’. I thank him for his service and wished him well.

    I was at Canadian Tire. Some of you know where this story is going. They have the ‘comic security guard’. This guy should be the template for all security. As you approach him, he yells out hello and breaks into some completely crazy joke. I don’t know how many he knows but enough.

    Ours was: Where do you take a cat with no tail? To the ‘re-tail’ store. hahaha

    Both got the job done. One will go home in a better mood.

    This pandemic and ensuing stress is going to go for a while yet. I encourage you to think about how you want to respond to various situations and even go so far as to role play them.

    You can reach out to various professionals for help in best practices for your specific challenges. Our clinic is one of those places.

    “Tough times don’t last, tough people do. ”
    ― Robert Schuller

    Be Well,
    Ward Willison
    Kelowna Acupuncture & Other Natural Therapies