Just as physical fitness provides us with an increased ability to respond to life in all its richness, mental fitness helps in the same way. Mental fitness can be defined as having and maintaining a state of well-being and cultivating awareness of how we think, behave and feel.
Mental health is something that affects everyone, just like physical health. It is completely normal to feel sad, angry or worried from time to time, but when those feelings won’t go away and they start to really affect day-to-day life, that is when there can be a problem and it is time to seek help. If you have any signs or symptoms of a mental illness, see your primary care provider or a mental health professional. Most mental illnesses don’t improve on their own, and if untreated, a mental illness may get worse over time and cause serious problems.
Improving our mental health is a serious task which requires time, practice, and consistency. There are many ways to develop our brains for enhanced mental strength and performance. At any age, through training, we can change our brains to become even more mentally strong, healthy, and fit and the following tips can help us towards that end.
3 habits of mentally fit people
#1 Focus on One Thing at a Time : Be present; turn off your phone and try to forget the running to-do lists in your head
#2 Incorporate a Daily “Mindfulness Break”: Daily mindfulness meditation practice has been found to produce significant improvements in attention, energy and stress
#3 Set Aside “Self-care” Time: Self-care is not selfish; it is about replenishing your own resources, not taking from someone else’s
9 key tips to keep mentally fit
Wellness at Sea from Sailor’s Society shares the following advice:
#1 Keep fit
Work out a fitness routine that will fit in with your specific circumstances while on board
#2 Eat healthy
There is a strong link between what we eat and how we feel
#3 Have a rest
A few minutes can be enough to de-stress you
#4 Ask for help
If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help
#5 Stay in touch
Make ‘remember notes’ on important stories you want to tell the people you care for
#6 Learn to be comfortable in your own skin
We’re all different. Accept that you are a unique human being
#7 Do something you enjoy
Make sure you take an activity you like with you on board.
#8 Share your problems
Try to talk to people you trust about your experiences and emotions
#9 Look out for others
Caring for others is often an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you
BUILDING RESILIENCE: Read in this series
Key considerations when handling mental health issues onboard
Several factors can impact seafarers’ mental health, such as job stress, family pressures and limited shore leave. Being away at sea can also make it difficult to access support. Everyone reacts differently to events, and changes in thoughts, feelings and behaviour vary between people and over time. A seafarer must nurture their mind and body and seek further help if required, ICS highlights in a recently published new guide on mental health.
According to ICS, shipping companies should create an on board caring culture to address mental health matters without fear of reprisal; and to help reduce the stigma that seafarers fear they will experience if they mention their mental health (including loss of employment).
However, the Association reminds that help is available since several companies have their own policies and confidential employee assistance programmes. These should be well publicized so that crew are aware and can feel confident to seek help when required. What is more, ISWAN has developed a range of resources to help seafarers manage and cope with low mood, stress and fatigue and to maximize psychological wellbeing.
In general, shipping companies should take a mental health emergency as seriously as a physical one. A seafarer experiencing a mental health crisis might feel no longer able to cope. This is particularly true in the current pandemic. If a mental health crisis occurs, the seafarer should seek immediate expert assessment and advice for the best course of action from a mental health professional. If under the care of a mental health provider, the seafarer should contact the specific advisor for advice.
In spite of the pandemic, due to the nature of their work, seafarers may become bored, frustrated or lonely and their families may also experience difficulties. Someone who feels suicidal might also experience these feelings more intensely if they drink alcohol, take drugs or have chronic sleeping difficulties.
As such, shipping organizations should consider ways to help encourage a seafarer to manage their concerns which can be:
- Financial concerns: There may be concerns about work and money on return home. These can impact mental health. Find out what help is available in the home country.
- Caring responsibilities: Seafarers may worry about supporting dependents at home or others
on board. Contact the home community to seek help if needed for care or support.
- When being treated or taking medication for existing conditions: Continue accessing treatment and support where possible; Continue taking medication; and seek further support if necessary
With regards to suicides onboard, which appear as an alarming trend, it is highlighted that suicide can often be prevented by knowing risk factors, being alert to signs of depression and other mental health issues, recognising warning signs, and intervening before the person acts. ‘
’A common form of suicide at sea is jumping overboard. If someone exhibits suicide warning signs, ask if they are feeling depressed or considering suicide.’’warned ICS. Furthermore, the Association stresses the importance of providing support to seafarers.
Overall, seafarers receiving support from caring friends and family, with access to mental health services, are less likely to act on their suicidal impulses than those isolated from care and support.
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