How Learning to Take a Step Back Changed My Life

How does working 19 straight weeks of 16+ hour days sound to you? Dealing with small quarters and constant interaction with guests who hold a very high standard to your work, doesn’t make it sound any better either. But what about if you’re sailing around some of the most beautiful areas in the world, with no purpose but to observe wildlife and enjoy all that nature has to offer. That makes it a lot better, and unbelievably more tolerable. But let’s get back to that first part, where endless days turn into endless weeks and it all begins to take a toll on both your body and your mind. Coming into such a new and exciting experience keeps you pretty happy and content to work your hardest for a while, but there is absolutely no combating the inevitable slump of aggravation and complacency.

So with no days off allowed, no real chance to get off the boat without guests, and nowhere on the boat to hide, I had to invent ways to keep sane, stimulated, and positive. There were occasional times where I could go off and meditate in the woods, or write in my journal, but those were few and far between and some days it was hard to leave the boat at all.  But it doesn’t matter the situation you’re in, everyone needs to develop ways to ground themselves and keep pointed in the right direction.

If you’re in a high-stress situation, it’s likely pushing you beyond what you thought your limits were, and forcing you to do something or act a certain way in which you’re not used to. That’s the first thing you should always keep in mind, and remind yourself of when you get the chance to step away. You’re being pushed not into oblivion, but to new heights and to achieve more than you thought you could. We’re all tempted to leave when we start to feel bad, but maybe all you need is a change of mindset and you can push through and better yourself.

When you have some time to yourself, or even just time to think inwardly, try thinking about every new opportunity your life has given you lately. While doing so, look around you, find something small, and realize it's beauty. You might be thinking right now, well...Ben, you were working on an amazing boat and got to see beautiful things every day. Well, as the season went on, and I became much better at this meditative practice, I began to appreciate and look for smaller, more subtle animals like sculpin or wrens. Even waves or grass can be beautiful enough to enjoy.

Find yourself a subject you think you'll enjoy staring at and do just that. Think about your week. The good things, and the bad, and the situations which you most want to relax from; and as you take deep breaths, allow your mind to wonder back and forth until the beauty and relaxation of your subject has overwhelmed the negative or stressful thoughts. Once you've begun to smile, start thinking about the good memories from the last week or so, and allow your smile to build while you take in more and more of your surroundings. It takes a lot of practice to allow this to truly take your stress away, but it's worth it.

Some situations really just aren’t right, and you should look after yourself and your mental health first and foremost, but make sure you step away and try some of these strategies before you abandon whatever opportunity you’re currently involved in. You might just find out something about yourself, or learn to love the things around you just a little bit more. 

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