Homesickness is the emotional distress that people experience when adjusting to new circumstances or surroundings when away from home and feeling cut off from our regular support system.
Analyzing this phenomenon for seafarers , the UK Club notes that homesickness has very little to do with the specifics of the past situation or the new, current circumstances.
According to Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Programme Director, UK Club, “this means that even if the familiar place was far from ideal, perhaps struggling with poverty, dealing with violence, or any other difficult circumstances, a person can still feel homesick even if the new surroundings are a much better place where most problems are solved.”
Feeling homesick has more to do with the transition between the two worlds
What are some of the symptoms of homesickness?
#1 Physical symptoms:
- Fatigue or low energy
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle tension or pain
- Bodily aches and pains
- Gastric and intestinal complaints / nausea
- Sleep disturbances or insomnia / nightmares
#2 Cognitive symptoms:
- Thoughts of missing home
- Idealizing home environment
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of optimism
- Negative thinking about the ship environment
- Inability to complete even simple tasks
#3 Behavioural symptoms:
- Social withdrawal
- Unwillingness to participate in social events or socialize with others onboard
- Lack of motivation or initiative on the job
- Wanting to leave
- Lack of drive to work or cooperate with other team members
- Isolating yourself
#4 Emotional symptoms:
- Feeling sad, lonely or helpless
- Depressed thoughts or mood
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Loss of confidence
- Inability to enjoy life onboard
- Sense of insecurity
- A feeling that you don’t belong
- Nervousness or irritability
How to combat homesickness
- Make an effort to get to know your crewmates: You might already know and get along with other seafarers onboard. But perhaps as a new joiner you may not know anyone and you may feel that it is difficult to make connections. Make new friends with whom you can talk about things that you worry about or simply share stories and happy memories from life back home.
- Keep in touch with your family: If you can stay in touch with your loved ones and family at home, it makes the transition period a lot smoother. Sometimes just a quick phone call or video chat with your family will make you feel better, knowing that you are still connected and close to each other.
- Take advantage of port visits to explore new surroundings: Where they exist, use the port facilities for seafarers. Seafarer centres offer recreational activities and sometimes can even provide transport into town or local areas of interest. Grasp the opportunity to explore the new surroundings and do something different.
- Keep your brain occupied: Exercising is a great way to spend some time after work. For example, running a few laps around the deck or using any onboard exercise equipment. Exercising will not only help you physically but exercising is also important for your mental health.
- Create a new routine onboard: Having a routine is something that makes life feel “normal”. Try to create your own routine, doing things you enjoy and socializing with your coworkers. Part of that may also be creating a more social environment onboard. Any activities that bring you joy are worth exploring and introducing to your coworkers.
- Remember why you enjoy your job: Take some time to realize how important and valuable your job is! You keep the wheels of world trade
and commerce running smoothly. You might find acting as a mentor for a colleague helpful in gaining enjoyment from your own role onboard. Learning is a positive experience, and helping others can remind you of your own achievements.
- Reach out for help: If your feelings of homesickness continue over a prolonged period – reach out and ask for help!
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