Working on Superyachts may look to outsiders like the most glamorous lifestyle going, but what they don’t see is the incredibly long hours that crew work, the endless (and sometimes insane) demands of charter guests and owners, the constant smiling and being on-hand to fufill every whim, the physical and mental demands that are placed on crew on a daily basis; and all of this with little or no time off during a busy season.
To say it’s hard work is an understatement, which is why it’s essential that crew members take care of themselves in every possible way to ensure that they are mentally and physically able to cope with the demands of the job, and of course to stay healthy. Ideally, you’d go and hang out at one of the beach clubs listed in our last post, but down-time is very often short or non-existent so there have to be other ways you can switch off and take care of yourself.
Mental health is a pretty hot topic around the world, and rightly so. Mental health is of paramount importance, and it’s what will power you through when you think you’re too exhausted to keep going. We’ve all heard of mindfulness and meditation, but very few practice it and it’s a very simple and quick way each day to genuinely improve how you feel about yourself and the world. Both methods are known to help with anxiety, depression, feeling overwhelmed, stress reduction, increased immune function and increased awareness to name just a few. As little as ten minutes a day could make a huge difference, and an easy way to access this is through the plethora of Apps available. Headspace, Calm and Aura are all top-rated this year and are free to download and get started. However, further on, they do charge a subscription fee, but they certainly won’t break the bank. You can do guided meditations that are as short as three minutes, so no excuses for not fitting in a daily session. You just need somewhere quiet.
Another thing that will massively affect how you feel is how much sleep you’re getting. We know how demanding guests can be, and how late they can stay up, which will most certainly rob you of your recommended eight hours. So, perhaps the only thing you can control is the quality of the sleep you get. A few simple tips for maximising your sleep efficiency:
- Cut out the caffeine, at least in the later part of the day. Whether you feel caffeine affects you or not, it will still affect your sleep in a negative way. Scientific studies show that even if you stop drinking coffee as far as six hours away from bedtime, it will still affect your sleep. A cut-off time of 2pm is recommended, and a limit of four cups per day.
- Same for alcohol. Whilst you are on duty and have guests on board, chances are you aren’t drinking anyway, but if you are offered a drink or have a rare night off, remember that alcohol is the worst disruptor of your sleep cycle. You fall asleep quicker, but the quality of sleep is poor, so you will feel like you’ve been run over the next day. Try and leave a good couple of hours at least between a drink and bed, and don’t overdo it!
- Turn off those screens! The blue light omitted by screens – phones, tablets, computers etc. – really play havoc with your poor tired brain and will make its natural melatonin production fall, making it hard for you to fall and stay asleep. At least an hour of no screens before you turn in.
- Similarly, don’t have any electrical displays, such as alarm clocks, on. Even things like the green light from your laptop charger can be really disruptive to your precious shut-eye. Use an eye mask if you have to, and ear plugs if your cabin mate snores!
So, sleep and mental health sorted, what else can you do to stay sharp and relaxed during a full-on charter season? Diet and hydration of course should play a huge part in your self-care routine. Eating healthily and drinking plenty of water are essential to keeping your body functioning properly. Chefs are wonderful, and being cooked for everyday is truly a luxury, but just make sure you’re getting your fill of fresh veg (cooked and raw), fruit, lean protein and complex carbs. Try not to snack on high-salt and sugar foods either, no matter how tempting that energy hit is. A really good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement is fantastic too, as are live probiotics if you can get hold of them. Hopefully you will have a stainless-steel water bottle by now (no plastic please!) and are drinking at every opportunity. Working in hot climates makes this even more important, and men should be getting at least 3l a day, and women 2.5l. Dehydration will make you tired, sluggish, constipated, gives you a nasty headache and it can make you pretty ill if you are consistently dehydrated. A good measure of your hydration is the colour of your pee. If it’s dark, drink more! It should be pale yellow, but not colourless; this means you’ve overdone it and you may be washing essential minerals out of your body.
An obvious way to boost your energy and mental health is exercise, but again, this can be almost impossible to achieve during the season when you can’t get off the boat to go to the gym or do water sports. Deck crew might have a slight reprieve if they accompany guests on water sports jaunts for example, but generally the physical work involved in each role is often the only exercise you get. If possible, find a space where you can do some stretches, a bit of yoga, some Pilates or some sit-ups and weights. You don’t need a lot of room or time, but a little bit of exercise each day will go a long way to ensuring you feel you can cope. Again, there are a huge number of apps out there offering short work outs and routines that don’t involve equipment. YouTube is a good source to use as well.
Two last things that will help are:
- Essential oils – read up about which ones are good for relaxation, anxiety, sleep etc. You can diffuse them, wear them or just smell them when you’re feeling wound up.
- Having a good friend. Sounds obvious but having someone you trust and can talk to is so important. If you’re tired and emotional and feeling low, having a shoulder to cry on can make all the difference. Hopefully you have someone on the boat that fits this role, and you can be each other’s support system.
So, please take care of yourselves during this busy summer season. It will require some discipline and effort, but it will all be worth it when you are actually able to enjoy your precious time off instead of spending it in bed feeling like death, only to feel human again just in time for the next charter…..