Resilience – Insights and strategies for improving seafarers mental health

Resilience - MASCOTMARITIME

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For seafarers, the challenges of isolation, long working hours and unpredictable conditions can take a toll on their mental health and well being.

This article delves into the importance of resilience for seafarers, offering valuable insights and practical strategies for enhancing mental strength.

After reading this article, you will have a deep understanding of how to manage your mental health, stress and sustain a positive outlook regardless of the demanding nature of life at sea.

What is resilience?

The capacity to recover from difficult or stressful circumstances is called resilience. It is the capacity to
recover quickly from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.

Resilient individuals can withstand stress, pressure, and obstacles and effectively navigate life’s ups and downs.

In the context of seafarers, resilience is particularly important due to the challenging and often unpredictable nature of their work at sea.

It enables them to cope with isolation, handle stress, adapt to change, manage emergencies, and maintain their mental well-being throughout their careers.

Is resilience a skill or a quality?

Like riding a bike, resilience is a skill. You will get better the more you practice.

How does resilience affect seafarers?

Resilience is vital for seafarers facing challenging and unpredictable conditions at sea. It helps them
manage stress, stay focused during emergencies, adapt to changing conditions, and maintain their
mental health despite long working hours, fatigue, and being away from home. Here is how resilience affects seafarers:

Adjusting to new circumstances: Seafaring requires continuous adaptation to ever-changing conditions,
both at sea and in port. Resilience enables seafarers to handle unexpected situations, such as changes in
weather, routes, or crew interactions.

Managing solitude: Seafarers often spend extended periods away from their families and friends.
Resilience helps them cope with isolation and maintain their mental well-being during these long
stretches at sea.

Handling emergencies: Resilience is crucial during emergencies like storms, accidents, or medical crises
onboard. It supports seafarers in maintaining composure, acting quickly, and taking the necessary steps
to protect themselves and their fellow crew members.

Dealing with stress: The maritime environment can be demanding and stressful, presenting seafarers
with challenges like rough weather, heavy workloads, and emergencies. Resilience allows them to
manage stress effectively and stay focused on their duties.

Maintaining mental well-being: The mental well-being of seafarers is contingent upon their resilience,
which enables them to manage the rigours of seafaring life, including extended work hours, exhaustion,
and the strain of being away from home.

What can be done to increase the resilience of mariners?

Boosting resilience among seafarers is essential for their well-being and effectiveness in their duties.
Here are some methods to strengthen resilience:

Training and learning: Provide training programmes that focus on stress management, coping strategies,
and mental health awareness. This can include workshops, seminars, and online courses tailored to the
specific challenges faced by mariners.

Preparedness and contingency planning: Offer thorough training and drills to prepare mariners for
emergencies and unforeseen circumstances. Adequate preparation boosts confidence and minimizes
the impact of stressful events, ensuring they can respond effectively to challenges at sea.

Peer assistance initiative programmes: Create peer support networks or buddy assistance systems to
foster connections among mariners, encouraging mutual support and camaraderie. Peer assistance and
support offer a sense of solidarity, empathy, and shared experiences, enhancing resilience.

Access to mental health resources: Ensure that mariners have access to mental health resources like
counselling services, helplines, and online support groups. Promote awareness of these resources and
work to decrease the stigma surrounding seeking assistance for mental health concerns.

Frequent communication with onshore support: Facilitate consistent communication between mariners
and their families, friends, and shore-based support networks to alleviate feelings of isolation and foster
a sense of connection and support. Regular contact enables seafarers to maintain important
relationships and access emotional encouragement during extended periods away from home,
contributing to their overall well-being and mental resilience at sea.

Encourage personal well-being: Encourage mariners to prioritize their personal well-being and recognize signs of stress and burnout. This involves promoting activities like hobbies and relaxation techniques and
allowing time for rest and recuperation.

Encourage a balanced and health-conscious lifestyle: Promote a healthy lifestyle among mariners by
ensuring access to nutritious food, facilities for regular exercise, and opportunities for relaxation and
recreation onboard. Encouraging these practices supports their physical well-being and helps manage
stress during extended periods at sea, contributing to overall health and resilience.

Promote a supportive workplace culture: Encourage a culture of constructive criticism and quick
resolution of any problems or concerns to preserve a supportive environment and avoid escalation.
Enable a positive work environment that encourages teamwork, open communication, and mutual
respect.

By implementing these strategies, various maritime organizations (ship owners, crew managers,
technical managers, charters, statutory bodies, etc.) can help mariners develop the resilience they need
to cope with the challenges of life at sea and maintain their well-being throughout their careers.

Why is resilience important for seafarers?

Resilience is important for seafarers, as it enables them to rebound from challenges, safeguard their
mental well-being, and navigate the rigorous maritime environment effectively. By cultivating resilience
among seafarers, we prioritize their mental health, safety, and overall welfare.

This involves equipping them with skills to manage stress, adapt to changing conditions, and maintain
focus during emergencies at sea. Understanding resilience as a dynamic capacity allows seafarers to not
only endure the physical demands of their profession but also thrive emotionally and psychologically.

We empower seafarers to face adversity with resilience by providing them with training, support
systems, and access to mental health resources. This ensures their capacity to manage the difficulties of
life at sea while maintaining their mental and emotional well-being in the long run.

How does resilience help you improve safety onboard?

Crew members who have developed resilience are better equipped to manage the stressors (external or
internal factors that cause stress) associated with working on a vessel. Their ability to quickly make
decisions and adjust to changing circumstances can help avert accidents. Resilient crew members
maintain their mental well-being, effectively handle emergencies, and sustain performance despite
challenges. This adaptability and mental fortitude contribute to safer and more efficient maritime
operations, ensuring that the crew can navigate both anticipated and unforeseen events successfully.

What are the 10 key things you can do to develop your resilience?

Cultivate awareness of your thoughts Resilient individuals do not let negative thoughts disrupt their
efforts. Instead, they consistently practice positive thinking. Pay attention to your self-talk when things
go wrong. If you notice statements that are permanent, pervasive, or personalized, challenge and
correct these thoughts in your mind.

Gain insights from your mistakes and failures Mistakes can teach us valuable lessons, so try to learn
from every situation. Also, consider the concept of post-traumatic growth; sometimes, when people
face tough times like losing a job or a relationship ending, it gives them a chance to think about their
lives in new ways. They might make positive changes and grow stronger as a result. It is about
recognizing obstacles as chances to develop and learn, even when things appear difficult at first.

Practice relaxation Taking care of your mind and body enhances your ability to effectively handle life and its challenges. Establish a consistent sleep routine, engage in new exercises, and use physical relaxation
techniques such as deep breathing or meditation.

Select how you respond Remember, everyone faces tough days and crises at some point. However, how
we respond is our choice: we can react with panic and negativity, or we can opt for calmness and logic
to regain control and seek solutions. Your response is always within your control, regardless of the
challenges you encounter. By choosing a thoughtful and composed approach, you empower yourself to
navigate difficulties effectively and make positive strides forward.

Establish goals for yourself If you have not already, learn to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable,relevant, and time-bound) personal goals that align with your values.These goals not only provide direction but also enable you to learn from your experiences. By setting SMART goals, you can focus your efforts on clear objectives that are meaningful and attainable, enhancing your personal growth and achievement. Making sure your goals are reasonable and in line with your aspirations is one way this strategy keeps you accountable and motivated. You can improve your goals to better fit your changing priorities and aspirations by reflecting on them often and making necessary adjustments. This will promote ongoing learning and growth.

Keep things in perspective Resilient individuals recognise that while a situation or crisis may feel
overwhelming in that moment, its long-term impact may be minimal. It is important to avoid exaggerating
events or their consequences. Keeping a balanced perspective helps in managing challenges effectively
without magnifying their significance unnecessarily.

Develop your self-confidence Resilient individuals maintain a steadfast belief in their eventual success,
even amidst setbacks and stress. This self-assurance empowers them to take on calculated risks. As
confidence and self-esteem strengthen, they gain the resilience needed to persevere and seize
opportunities. This mindset fosters a proactive approach to challenges, enabling continuous progress
and growth.

Cultivate strong and meaningful connections People with strong workplace relationships are more
resilient to stress and experience greater job satisfaction. The same principle applies in personal life:
cultivating genuine friendships enhances resilience by providing a robust support network. Seeking
assistance when needed becomes easier when surrounded by supportive relationships. Additionally,
showing compassion and empathy towards others is crucial for building and maintaining these strong
connections. This method helps people become more resilient while also creating a positive,
encouraging atmosphere that allows them to succeed both personally and professionally.

Adjust your perspective Engage in cognitive restructuring to alter your perspective on negative
situations and adverse events.

Remain adaptable Resilient individuals understand that change is inevitable and well-crafted plans may
sometimes require adjustment or abandonment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the 7 Cs of resilience?

The 7 Cs are as below:
Confidence: A solid sense of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Competence: The capability to manage situations and challenges effectively.
Control: realizing that you can affect outcomes through your actions.

Connections: Cultivating strong, positive connections with others.
Contribution: recognizing the significance of personal contributions and feeling appreciated.
Calmness: The ability to maintain a sense of calm and composure in the face of challenges, stress, or
adversity
Care for yourself: Cultivating skills and strategies to handle stress and adversity.

What are the 4 types of resilience?

Physical, psychological, emotional, and social resilience are the four primary categories of resilience.

Is resilience the key to success?

Resilience is essential for personal growth and achievement. It involves gracefully rebounding from
setbacks and failures and refusing to let uncontrollable factors hinder your aspirations. It is about
persevering through adversity, adapting to challenges, and maintaining focus on your goals despite
obstacles. It empowers individuals to learn from setbacks, develop new strategies, and continue
progressing towards success. It makes it possible to adopt a flexible and determined mindset, ensuring
that obstacles do not derail goals but rather present chances for growth and improvement.

Must read articles :

Problems faced by seafarers

Seafarers happiness on board

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