Being alone on a small boat for an extended period of time, one of the most important things to do is to manage your mind. Keeping physically busy sailing the boat is a given but there are times when things don’t go as planned and you have to step up. Alone in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from anywhere and a long way from help you don’t really have a choice. Similarly, now that we are in ‘COVID lockdown’, many people have been forced into isolation. Perhaps not quite so remote from help, but there are many similarities and things we can do to help deal with the situation. When faced with a challenging situation I turn to the A-B-C model…

A – Acceptance

               More often than not, a challenging situation comes along that we are not expecting. None of us really expected the current situation to be quite like this, with complete Lockdown in many countries. We didn’t ask for this, we didn’t expect it and we didn’t really do anything to initially cause it – but it has happened and this is where we are. When you find yourself in a situation like this you need to have clear space in your head to work through solutions. The quickest way to do that is to ACCEPT the situation. Don’t waste time and effort wondering why or how this has happened at this point. It is easy to start looking to blame someone or something, but that takes up valuable resources in your mind which would be better used trying to find a solution or limiting the damage. Accept it for what it is and then we can start looking to fix it.

B – Brain space

               Think of your brain like a computer, albeit a very powerful one. It can only cope with so much at a time – it only has a certain capacity. In survival mode, you are only able to deal with survival. One step at a time, small increments juts to get through the next hour/day/week. You have no spare capacity to think about all the extra things, like washing the car, or going on holiday – you can only cope with the immediate issues – survival. Once you get on top of things, the survival ‘things/products’ start to become second nature and you don’t need to consciously think about them any more. Your brain has some spare capacity to start working on other things. For me it is brushing my teeth. If I am up against it and in survival mode, then I have more important things to think about than brushing my teeth, like staying alive or keeping the boat afloat. If I have the capacity to think about brushing my teeth, then I am in Coping mode. No longer in survival mode as I now have the brain space to think more about everyday things. If I not brushing my teeth when offshore, then I am in survival mode. The third mode is Thrive. When you operate in this mode, then even things like brushing your teeth don’t require any thought. You have lots of extra capacity in your mind to plan ahead and look at ‘other things’ to move ahead. You have plenty of Brain space to work with.

C – Control the Controllables

               This is a phrase used a lot in Sport Psychology and means focusing your efforts on things that you can affect and not wasting time and effort on those you have no control over, but that doesn’t mean ignoring them. When sailing, I have no control over the weather, so I don’t waste time complaining about it – it won’t change it so that is wasted time and effort. But it does affect me, so I learn to deal with it and understand it. Likewise, with the current crisis – it’s here, we can’t change that. It is therefore a waste of time and effort complaining about it. That time and effort is much better spent and more productive when put towards a solution and understanding. However, this isn’t possible without first accepting the situation and then having the brain space to deal with it – ABC.


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