The pace of offshore life in operations can be exhausting. The shifts are long and require intense focus for days on end. You are also away from your family and friends for days and weeks at a time.The spaces are enclosed, and sometimes feel prison-like. Once, I had a colleague/friend/fellow engineer who described offshore as a “prison on water”.
When I first started going offshore, I observed some of my engineer colleagues, particularly male, completely give up their entire personal life for a whole rotation to dive into their work. This mentality, for obvious reasons, completely freaked me out because not creating time for self-care can be damaging.
Therefore, I am excited to scream my discovery from the mountaintops:
“Giving up your personal life is NOT necessary to be successful offshore!”
You can work offshore while still giving yourself time to be who you are. You can do the things that make you happy through self-care. There is a limited amount of time, so you have to make it count. There may not be hours to talk on the phone, but you can certainly do little things that make you feel more at home.
Here are some suggestions I found to work well within an offshore schedule:
I used the gym offshore as my private getaway and break from the people around me. As much as I cared for the people I worked with, sometimes I just wanted to GET AWAY. There are times I identified when very few people are in the gym. I could take my time, and have the whole place to myself. Training for a marathon on the treadmills and using the small selection of weights to cross train helped me stay not only fit, but also balanced. I did yoga to re-center myself. Physical fitness contributes hugely to my self-care.
Full disclosure: I took advantage of the fact that everyone was sweaty from going on deck. So I didn’t even shower after I worked out at lunch! Taking that time to myself to sweat, even if it was 20 minutes a day, made me a happier and more productive person.
Calling Loved Ones
One of the greatest joys in my life is my relationships with friends and family. Perhaps the hardest part of working offshore for me was being away from them. I learned from day one that I would be a much happier person if I had some sort of contact with home. Hearing from my boyfriend-turned-fiancé, parents, or siblings (almost every day) made a difference.
I found it difficult, at first, to keep up with the pace of the long offshore days and take time to call home. However I got simple and amazing advice from a mentor and fellow offshore woman – just close the door. There is nothing wrong with closing your door to your office or going to your room and making that phone call. You probably give so much of your time to your work already, you can take the time for self-care. There is absolutely no problem in giving a visible signal for people to keep out by closing your door for a call.
Things or Activities That Remind You of Home
I always brought a book offshore! Making much progress on my reading didn’t always happen. However, I tried to read a page or two before going to bed. Simply having that experience of reading each night took my mind off of work. Reading reminded me of my own home and my own bed.
I also brought quilting offshore and a University of Michigan blanket. I even brought Christmas decorations for my office during my December rotation!
See if you can find something or some activity that you can bring offshore that reminds you of home. However silly or menial it may seem, it will contribute to your self-care!
Take Time to Notice the Environment Around You
Things happen so fast offshore, it is very easy to get caught in the flow. Take the time to notice the beautiful sunrises and sunsets on the water. Observe the occasional birds that make it so far out into the Gulf of Mexico. Stop a moment to admire the dolphins, fish, and other aquatic wildlife. These methods became almost a form of meditation for me.
In addition to the outside environment, take time to notice changes or improvements in your team. This can be especially difficult for the offshore life because we practically live with our teammates. Being in such close proximity makes it harder to observe the little things. Try to find the moments when the guy who was skeptical of you comes to ask your advice; the time when a team member stands up for another; that instance when you stopped the job out of safety concerns. These moments are ones that deserve notice.
There are so many things to be thankful for offshore that are sometimes hard to remember when cooped up for several days. Give yourself time to notice these small beauties of the offshore life, and the qualities of the people around you – it will help you exhibit gratitude in your everyday actions.
Self-Care: It Is So Important
In conclusion, I want to remind everyone to take care of yourself. Because without taking care of yourself, you cannot be your best self. That mental health time and physical health time will fuel you to push through the difficult days. For more reading about being your best self, check out this post about Making Yourself a Priority.