Self Care in Stormy Seas

How can I improve my health when life is throwing so many things at me?

One question that frequently pops up from my patients is: How can I improve my health when life is throwing so many things at me? Times of transition often make me reflect on past experiences that have molded my perspective on health. I want to share a lesson I learned while sailing around the world on a 48-foot sailboat with family.

In my early 20s, with dreams of exploring remote places, I embarked on this global circumnavigation despite being prone to seasickness. It was an unlikely move, considering my previous experience of being seasick for three weeks straight on a Trans-Pacific crossing. Yet there I was, sailing for a year and a half.

We sailed day and night, across oceans, often without sighting any land or other boats. As part of our routine, we took turns being on watch, keeping an eye out for potential threats: other boats in the area, submerged trees, change in weather etc. My watch was usually at night, in the darkness, and it presented its fair share of challenges.

During those initial months, I struggled with unfavorable conditions—strong winds, turbulent waves, and stifling humidity. Being tossed side to side for hours, days, felt like torture, especially during my solitary watch in the dark, when the horizon disappeared, and my thoughts were the only company. At times I wanted to scream into the darkness, demanding an end to the torment. I was angry at the weather, as if it were disobedient or malfunctioning.

But here's the thing: conditions never stayed the same. Eventually, the weather would calm down - regardless of my frustrations, requests or schedule.

Growing up on land, surrounded by modern comforts, I believed that I could control everything around me. I even carried a sense of responsibility for it. Western culture promotes this further celebrating and emphasizing personal agency, often overestimating its role in success. But, on the boat, living so intimately with nature, I was constantly reminded of the limited locus of control we truly possess.

As simple as it sounds, it took me months to realize: Sometimes the ocean is calm, and at other times, it's stormy.

Instead of fixating on the storms around me

I shifted my focus to the boat.

Over the 18 months of sailing, my perspective gradually shifted. I redirected my energy and purpose towards what I could control.

Instead of fixating on the storms around me, I shifted my focus to the boat. I realized that my job wasn't to control the weather but rather to diligently repair and improve our vessel. On calm days, we focused on maintenance and tested new strategies. On stormy days, we challenged our systems and noted areas of weakness.

Discomfort remained a regular companion during my sailing journey, but there was newfound ease as well. Even my seasickness calmed down. What I learned was this: Instead of desperately trying to create calm seas and sunny weather, our energy & focus is best served on building our own resilience and strength. And this is especially the case in health. Instead of trying to reduce all the stresses around us, our daily work focuses on building our own resilience through self care habits. 

Storms will come and go, tossing and stressing our day-to-day lives, but our resilience will make all the difference. So, let's concentrate on fortifying ourselves rather than controlling external circumstances. With confidence and resilience, we can wholeheartedly embrace the exciting & tranquil moments, in this adventure we call life.

I want to take a moment to thank you for the well wishes and support during this transition in my practice. I've been touched by the heartfelt messages and thoughtful gifts I've received over the past few weeks. I'm so grateful to each and every one of you.

Thank you.

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