Posted on May 26, 2014 by Debra Burdick
Have you ever planned something, saved up for it, looked forward to it, and then had something go wrong? Last month I travelled to Amsterdam where my sweetheart and I would board the Viking Sun River Cruise on the Rhine River to Basel. Before the cruise we spent 3 wonderful days in Amsterdam. We visited Rembrandt’s house where he painted his masterpieces and taught his protégés. We visited Anne Frank’s house where she and 7 others hid for 2 years before being taken by the Nazis – a very moving experience. A walking tour took us through the canal areas and yes, even the red light district. We enjoyed a canal cruise, shopping, and a visit to the Rijksmuseum. The Keukenhof Tulip garden was one the most beautiful places I have ever seen.
Then we transferred to the Viking Sun for a 7 day cruise down the Rhine. We went to our cabin for which we had paid a premium price to be on the top level with huge sliders looking out at the river. There were only a few of these cabins left when we made our reservation many months ago so we chose the one right next to the library with the notion that it would be extra quiet.
After a delicious dinner we went to our cabin and got ready for bed. Just then the captain started up the engines to begin our cruise down the Rhine. OMG! Everything in the cabin started vibrating and rattling. And the cabin started filling with exhaust fumes. I thought, no problem, the captain is using the engine thrusters to maneuver us out of the harbor and into the river so it will quiet down when we get onto the river.
I laid my head down on the pillow and discovered the closer my head got to the pillow, the louder the noise. My whole body was vibrating. I got up and looked out my slider. We were no longer maneuvering but moving quickly and smoothly along and I could see the lights from the river bank flashing right next to the boat as we went along very close to the shore.The noise and vibration was still unbelievable. I might as well have been bunking with the engine.
I went back to bed and tried to dispel the mounting panic I felt that we would be dealing with this engine noise every night for 7 nights. How was I going to be able to sleep? I consider good sleep to be my best medicine and I don’t do well without sleep.
I thought to myself, “Ok Deb, you teach thousands of people how to use mindfulness skills so now would be a good time to practice them yourself”. I started with a few deep relaxation breaths. Then I did a full body scan, and next a progressive relaxation. I tried to reframe the incredible noise and vibration by imagining myself being lulled to sleep by a warm, vibrating, comforting presence.
It wasn’t working. The noise was incredibly loud. I started to cry. We had paid more than any other cruise to date and I felt like I was trying to fall asleep in hell.
I inserted the earplugs I had brought for the plane. These didn’t even make a dent in the deep, overwhelming noise. I put on the light blocking mask to prevent the shore lights from flashing in my eyes through the thin curtains.
I tried to accept the noise and relax my mind and body. If you know me, you know that I am really good at calming my mind and body and going into a deep state of relaxation. Despite doing so, the noise was simply too activating to my brain. I could transport myself out of the cabin but I couldn’t fall asleep.
Around 5 AM the thrusters started up again as the boat docked. The engines shut off and I was overcome with peace and quiet. And I finally fell asleep. After 2 hours of sleep I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep. So I got up and got ready for the amazing excursion that was planned at our first stop on the Rhine.
We investigated the location of our cabin and discovered it was placed directly above the engine with no cabins below us. Plus a stairwell next to our cabin channeled noise directly up to us. Although many cabins forward of us were impacted by the noise and vibration, our cabin and the one across the hall were particularly affected.
We tried to move to a quieter cabin and discovered there were none available. When we discussed the problem with the staff they told us we would get used to the noise. Yeah, right.
I knew I had to make a choice. I could either be totally miserable, sleep deprived and angry or I could choose to deal with the situation and enjoy a wonderful cruise of a lifetime despite the engine noise. I chose the latter.
I shifted my attitude and figured out how to thrive despite the noise. That night I took Benadryl which is very sedating for me. I used the ear plugs and the eye mask and after about an hour of using my relaxation techniques I fell asleep. I woke up around 4 AM but at least I had about 5 hours of sleep.
I accepted that I would feel tired during the day due to the Benadryl fog and tried to lessen this by taking the least amount that would help me sleep. I allowed myself to fall asleep on the bus when we were travelling to various castles and cathedrals. I rested here and there as possible. But mostly I just focused on enjoying the amazing beauty and history along the Rhine.
I succeeded in having a wonderful week! If I ever have the pleasure of another river cruise I will reserve a year ahead of time and make sure my cabin is FAR from the engines.
Sometimes there are circumstances beyond our control that we must deal with. Even if we cannot change a stressful situation we can choose how we respond to it. I could feel my anger and panic about the noisy cabin welling up inside my body, particularly my stomach. But since I definitely didn’t want to feel that way during this amazing adventure it really helped to decide to shift the anger and release the panic. I allowed it, acknowledged it, and then dismissed it. Each time I noticed the anger or panic surfacing I repeated this process and replaced it with thoughts that felt better by focusing on the beauty and excitement that was right there in front of me in the present moment.
I hope you never have to deal with stressful things in your life, but when you do try shifting your attitude and practicing the techniques I used to lower your stress response and to enjoy every moment. It works!
I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.