Stress is our body’s response to any kind of event, situation, threat or demand. It is part of the normal process of adaptation to environment and consists of behavioral responses. It is commonly considered as the result of the relationship with the environment that an individual appraises as significant for his wellbeing. Exposure of individuals to a stressor of physical, social, or environmental nature for a long time may make difficult for an individual to cope with.
At work several factors such as the job content and any inadequacy or deficiency in organizational communication may lead to the perception of an imbalance between work demands and needs and/or resources used. This creates stress. Work-related stress is a topic receiving increasing attention by all industry’s stakeholders.
Seafarers are usually exposed to several stressors due to their demanding working environment. Specifically, they are confronted with mental, psychosocial, and physical stressors.
The different duties onboard, separation from family, loneliness on board, fatigue, multi-nationality, limited recreation activity, and sleep deprivation are among the contributory factors of stress at sea.
According to an AMSA report, stressors affecting seafarers working in the engine room can be different from those involving the deck crew. Therefore, strategies to decrease risks of stress should be directed to the different categories of seafarers, and the results of specific interventions should be evaluated.
Main causes for stress onboard
- Separation from family& friends and loneliness on board
- Concern over leaving loved ones behind
- Lack of good quality sleep
- Poor diet
- Port inspections
- Changing crew every few months
- Working under time pressures
- Extreme temperatures
- Heavy seas for a long period
Main symptoms of stress
The ILO MLC,2006 has addressed a lot of stressful factors affecting seafarers’ wellbeing. The common symptoms are:
- Sleep problems
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Feeling low
- Worrying constantly
- Imagining the worst
- Losing your temper easily
- Drinking/smoking more
- Nail biting
How seafarers may overcome stress
Seafarers need to take care of their own mental health while on board. Key steps to overcome stress on board are:
- Think positively: always keep in mind positive thoughts and do more of what makes you happy
- Talk and discuss: try not to be lonely and discuss as much as possible your thoughts with others
- Take a breath: when you feel pressure, just pause for a moment and take attention on your breathing to feel calm
- Time management: organize your work and spend quality time when off duty