February 23, 2012

Richard Hilson wearing captain's hatSome of you will know that my personal Clipper journey is one which is partly challenging my fears and anxieties - you might say therapy - and partly in aid of helping destigmatise mental illness (find out more on my website - www.ihatesinking.com). So I often try and look at my whole sailing experience to see what lessons it can provide me in relation to my personal anxieties. And, upwind sailing I find helps me get a great perspective on all this. Here's how...

The winds presented during the stretch from Singapore to China are predominantly North / North Easterly - and given this is the direction we are headed it means we will be 'beating' into the winds. If you haven't sailed, I guess the best way to imagine the difficulties this represents is to imagine a surfer going out towards the surf from the beach. He must beat his way through waves which come crashing down on him, often getting pushed back by their oncoming force. Whereas going with the surf (like downwind sailing) he glides along the waves. The forces on the boat when heading into the winds are such that we will always be healed over at an angle of around 45degrees - so life on the slant, while crashing up and down. So as you can see, heading into the wind already feels a lot more uncomfortable than the so called 'champagne sailing' that smooth, flat, downwind sailing can offer.

Now let me give you a feel for how what I call the 'drama volume' getting turned up. Imagine a light breezy day - hop on your bicycle for a ride, heading into the wind, and of course before you know it you are creating your own wind (you could also imagine hanging your head out of a car window) - what seemed like a calm day now feels different - the wind blowing across your body, hair flying and whistling through your ears.

Now imagine how this affects you on a 68 foot yacht, crashing up and down the oncoming waves like a surfer. All of a sudden you can't hear the person shouting at you from 10 feet away, the wind aggressively whooshing through your ears. Add to this the many clonks, crashes and whistles that the apparent wind creates as it meets the boats many surfaces and hopefully you can get a feel for the drama! Oh no, actually, lets now turn out the lights and add some rain! Now our drama volume is around 10!

It's at times like this that I imagine the stress that at times in my life has lead to periods of depression. But as I've come to learn it is often my perception of situations which cause my depression rather than the reality of the situation... so how might we change our perception?

What if I shut out the noise... that feels less dramatic.

What if we put the decklight on and I pull up my hood. I definitely feel more able to cope.

And what, if I imagine, that if we turned the boat around by 180 degrees, surfing down the waves, following the wind - the drama volume now set to a much more easy listening 2 or 3.

If I imagine how close we actually are to this scenario - a simple turn of the wheel - I find myself all together calmer.So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, try and see how you might turn the drama volume down - or if things just get a little too much, turn and head in the opposite direction for a little while.


By supporting Richard on this epic challenge and donating to mental health charity, Mind, you will be demonstrating that you too believe that it is “time to change” – that you are prepared to play a part in helping end mental health discrimination and destigmatise mental illness.

Original blog published on http://www.clipperroundtheworld.com

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