Dealing with the Killer Called Stress
Observations and Advice by Captain Paul Watson (by permission)
I am often asked how I deal with stress considering I’m wanted by Japan and Costa Rica, I have a price on my head from the shark fin mafia of Costa Rica, we have numerous ships on the sea in dangerous campaigns, I am being sued, threatened and harassed continuously and I have a lot of enemies, critics and people who wish me harm.
The answer to this is simple. I don’t deal with stress, because I do not suffer from stress. And these are ten primary reasons why, and for anyone suffering from anxiety, worry or stress, I would like to offer this advice …
1. It is what it is. Whatever the issue, whatever the threat, whatever the circumstances it simply is what it is. Stressing will not change the situation. All problems can be dealt with or ignored.
2. “It’s always something.” I say this all the time to my crews whenever a problem arises. “It’s always something and if it’s not something, it’s something else, but it is always something.” This means that life comes with obstacles, challenges and problems. Problems should not be unexpected. They are inevitable. All problems can be dealt with by dealing with them, delegating someone else to deal with them, or ignoring them. One thing for sure, on a ship, it is definitely always something.
3. Stay calm. There really is nothing worth getting upset about. For example, if I drop a bottle of wine or tomato sauce and it shatters, my reaction is, “hmmm okay, that needs cleaning up.” If I lose my phone, wallet or keys, my reaction is “I better replace what I lost and take measures to cancel my cards etc. More seriously when my regulator jammed once at 30 meters, I calmly signaled my partner to indicate my situation. Fretting about it will not recover the object. Panicking will not save your life. Anger emanates from stress. Without stress there can be no anger. Without stress there is no panic.
4. Nothing material is permanent and thus objects are not worth stressing about. Your car is damaged, something you own is stolen, or you lost your investments etc. It is really not important. Material objects and comforts are nice but they should not be anchors keeping you attached to stress. Move on.
5. Friends are friends or they are not. A true friend will never betray you and if a “friend” does betray you than he/she is simply not a friend. Always walk away from betrayal and do not stress about it. True and loyal friends are rare treasures and should be treated as such. Loyalty returns loyalty. Compassion returns compassion. Courage returns courage. However you control only your own loyalty, compassion and courage, not that of others. And if they prove disloyal or they betray you, the treasure is no longer a treasure but merely a bauble to be tossed aside. Never stress about betrayal or loss. It is what it is.
6. Loneliness is an opportunity. It is an opportunity to discover yourself. You can’t find someone to love you if you don’t love yourself, and the secret to finding the right person is to not look for that person. Love should blossom from the ground like a lovely wild flower. It cannot be cultivated until after it is realized. Do not seek the seed but let the flower reveal an opportunity to you to grow and learn.
7. Relationships are like streams, constantly flowing and as they flow they meet obstacles. Some are minor and others major but a relationship either flows around the obstacle or it is blocked, and if permanently blocked, it ends. This is not cause for stress or angry, resentment or jealously. It is what it is. Move on with appreciation and without bitterness for the relationship that is no more, and open your heart to other possibilities that life presents. The most important factor in maintaining a meaningful relationship with lovers, family or friends is simply acceptance. You need to accept them for who they are and they need to accept you for who you are. If you cannot accept another person for who they are, you need to stop inflicting stress on that person and to walk away. And if another person does not accept you for who you are, you need to walk away no matter the nature of the relationship. Stress kills and living with a person who does not accept you for who you are is like living with a person who is slowly killing you.
8. Fear is a poison that seeps into the soul and paralyzes our senses generating paranoia, insecurity and anger. Never let fear enter your life. There is really nothing to fear because things are what they are and will be what they will be. Remember you are the captain of your fate and the master of your soul and body. Who you are and what you wish to be depends on you and you alone. A person free of fear can accomplish far more than a person shackled to fear.
9. Oscar Wilde once said that the only thing worst than being talked about was not being talked about. People talk, they gossip, they make false accusations, some enjoy insulting and belittling others. They are easily dealt with by ignoring them. Responding to them is what they want, so don’t respond. Reacting to them is what they want, so don’t react. Such people are not worthy of causing stress to you. They come from a place of insecurity, jealously and fear. It is their stress, and their stress is their problem. It should not be yours.
10. Hoka Hey. It’s a good day to die. It’s a Lakota saying and it means to not fear death and to stand firm for what you believe in, to fight against all odds and to never surrender. The one absolute of life is death. We all will die. What matters is not dying but living. It is how you live that is important and the only thing important about dying is how you die. It should be a death without fear, with dignity and with acceptance that it is what it is. The person without fear dies but once, the person shackled by fear dies slowly from stress and anxiety. Accept the inevitable, embrace the final reality of life and smile in the face of the infinite. The real secret to happiness is to not fear your own death, to not fear failure or ridicule, and not to fear others.
Stress is an obstacle to mindfulness and an impediment to impeccability. Stress is the cause of migraines, cancer and many other ailments. It is the reason people smoke, take drugs, and drink excessively. When people ask me why I’ve never smoked anything, the reason being is that I have never felt inclined to do so. It never seemed healthy to me and I have always been mindful of the consequences. I think that stress blocks mindfulness of consequences. The same holds true to getting drunk or stoned. Without stress there is no need, nor a desire to do either.
Mindfulness is simply awareness of who you are and what you are doing. A person who is mindful is a person free of stress.
Unfulfilled desire leads to stress. Wanting nothing allows you to appreciate what you have. When you want nothing, you want for nothing. We all have basic needs for food, for warmth and shelter, for clothing and for companionship. Mindfulness allows you to be secure with your basic needs. Everything else is a luxury and although luxuries may be appreciated, you should not depend upon them. Depending upon luxuries leads to stress.
I have never worked a day in my life for the sole purpose of making money. I have never wanted to own anything and although I now do own property and material things, I do not allow those things to own me. I never engage in arguments about money or debts. I tend to avoid debts but when debts occur my position is that they are what they are and certainly not anything to be troubled with.
As far as basic needs, I learned to address this as a teenager when I left home at 15. I had no money, no place to stay, no prospects. I jumped a freight train, rode in the automobiles being transported from Toronto all the way to Vancouver. I arrived and camped in the abandoned gun towers on Wreck Beach and the first thing I did was to go to Vancouver City College to enroll. I found a job, moved out of the gun tower into a single room I rented and went from there. Looking back I see it as an adventure. I had nothing but there was no stress. I simply replaced the insecurity of my position into an adventurous experience. I treated every job as a learning experience and working as a longshoreman, teamster, tree planter, warehouse man, short order cook, baker, painter, carpet layer, postman, tour guide, landscaper, and seaman all were educational experiences.
The truth is that all of life is an adventure, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the experiences, the hardships, the thrills and the times that were lonely, happy or difficult. Even the loss of friends and family is simply dealt with by acknowledging that death is as it is. It is inevitable and although we may sincerely mourn we can do so without being stressed. This may be difficult to understand but it is indeed quite possible. With the passing of every friend, with the passing of my brother I have silently said “Good-bye” with the appreciation of having known them.
I have gone into situations many times where the risks of injury, death or imprisonment were practically a certainty. My approach has always been acceptance. And amazingly I am still alive and still free. When I have had nothing I have had everything I need, and when I have risked all, I have usually been successful. One of the things that concerns me is when I read about, or hear of people, especially young people committing suicide because of bullying. I wish that I could talk to such people before they make such a terminal decision. I would tell them to not let the insecurities and fears of others influence them in any way. I would tell them to accept that all the ridicule, insults, bullying and peer pressure is irrelevant and simply unimportant to who they are. If a parent is unaccepting of who you are, you need to say to them that if you are unacceptable to them they have no right to be your parent and you should walk away from them. Too many people are enslaved to parents, partners and friends who do not accept them Unacceptance and bullying are forms of violence and everyone should walk away from violence with dignity. No one should tell you what to believe, how to think, how to dress, how to behave or to dictate your sexual orientation or condemn you for your compassion, your passion, your imagination and your character. You are who you are and that is what it is, and how it should be, and if others do not tolerate who you are, don’t give them the satisfaction of destroying you. Simply symbolically spit in their eye, walk away and concentrate on being who you are for the benefit of yourself.
And if anyone is inclined to commit suicide my advice is to commit social suicide instead. That is, to drop out of your life as it is and begin another life, in another place with new ideas. Adventure is the antidote for depression. Take a chance, jump into the unknown and you will be amazed at what is awaiting you after you do.
I am not infallible. I have made mistakes in my life, many of them. I have at times in the past responded with anger although never physical and limited to the poison of the pen. I have let some people down, disappointed others and missed opportunities. But the one thing that I have been able to do in my life is to avoid stress.
At 64, I am healthy, happy, optimistic, and as passionate as I ever have been. Even more so because I have had the grace of experience and the satisfaction of achievement in those areas that I chose to address.
The point of this posting is this: Do not let stress ruin your health, your love or your life. Dreadnaught and live the adventure, this adventure that is life. It may well be the only life you will ever have. Even if you believe in the afterlife (oh and don’t stress about that either) the fact is you will never know for sure, so no sense wasting the unique life that you have.
A stress free life is not only possible, it’s also essential for your health and your happiness.