Fighting stress onboard is both challenging and crucial. Although much of our everyday stress can be useful in a way of noticing a problem or the pressures that we face, triggering us to act, in general, repeated and prolonged stress may have negative effects on our mental health. Focusing on seafarers’ safety and wellness onboard, a self-help guide, issued previously by ISWAN in cooperation with the Shipowners’ Club, provides practical tips to seafarers to better deal with stress and be able to recognize its symptoms and face a stressful situation.
- Negative effects of stress:
If the stress is prolonged or repeated, many of the changes in our body can have longer term effects: headaches, aches and pains in the body or chest, stomach and digestion problems, high blood pressure, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and so on.
Chronic and long stress is often linked to some serious health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and strokes as well as a lowered immune system and increased susceptibility to illness.
When stressed how we feel:
- On edge or wound up
- Impatient, irritable or aggressive
- Sad or worried
- Lonely or isolated Confused,trapped or helpless
How we act:
- Irritable and angry
- Eating too much or too little
- Smoking or drinking alcohol more than usual
- Restless, like you can’t sit still
- Difficulty sleeping
How the body feels
- Headaches and body pains
- Indigestion or heartburn
- Feeling sick
How we think
- Racing thoughts, like you can’t switch off
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Feeling distracted
These negative effects of stress only come when stress is experienced often and over a prolonged period of time. The short-term effects of acute stress do not damage the body or the mind.
Ways to manage stress
#1 Address the effects of stress: Relaxation, Mindfulness and Controlled Breathing are all ways to relax your body / Breathing Techniques: Remember that all the physical effects of stress begin with the breath.
#2 Address the causes of stress: Identify the factors, manage your time better, address the problem.
#3 Manage fatigue: Stress contributes to fatigue, as lack of sleep builds up and the only real way to combat fatigue is good quality sleep.
In addition, ISWAN recommends to:
Allow your body to learn a rhythm of sleep and wakefulness;
Do what you can to make sure your cabin is a relatively cool and comfortable temperature, is quiet and your bed is comfortable;
Exercise is excellent for a good night’s rest. Take exercise during the day, but not late in the evening;
Take time to relax and wind down from the activities of the day;
If you are worrying about problems at home or at sea, try writing them down and putting them out of your mind before bed.