Sophia Bullard, Crew Health Director at UK P&I Club, discusses the importance of recognising the physical, psychological and behavioural signs induced by the Covid-19 pandemic onboard, and advises on techniques seafarers can use to cope in these difficult times:
“As the pandemic continues many seafarers remain stranded at sea due to travel restrictions and border closings, unable to return home or be relieved by new crews. To the seafarers, who work endlessly and under strenuous conditions, facing the precarious challenges of the pandemic can be overwhelming.
“This situation can trigger physical symptoms as well as feelings of uncertainty about the future causing anger, fear, anxiety and sadness. Recognising these common symptoms and being proactive can mitigate the psychological effects experienced.
“Depression and anxiety brought about by these extraordinary circumstances can manifest itself in physical symptoms such as headaches, neck tension, gastrointestinal problems, sleep issues, decreased appetite and fatigue.
Psychological and emotional signs
“Lockdown in any environment can take an emotional toll on us, and many suffering at sea may experience feeling powerless, overwhelmed, extremely negative, insecure, sad or angry.
“Under the immense strain of these physical and psychological symptoms, it’s likely that lockdown at sea will inhibit many seafarers’ ability to function to their normal capacity and alter their behaviour. Crew may find it difficult to concentrate, make decisions and carry out daily tasks, or be more prone to irritability, aggression, or resort to using alcohol, drugs and prescribed medication.
“Seafarers, however, can proactively engage in activities that will foster a sense of control and empowerment, and protect their wellbeing. Not all practices may be helpful or practical, but keeping an open mind can alleviate the burden of lockdown at sea and protect your wellbeing. Some common practices include:
Establish a daily routine – this is of paramount importance. Daily physical activity, a regulated sleep schedule and eating healthy meals is hugely beneficial
Stay informed – use reliable sources to get information, while limiting the time allocated to seeking information to prevent extra stress from overload
Be aware of your feelings, thoughts and reactions
Practice gratitude and kindness with your colleagues onboard
Stay in touch with your family and friends via social media, phone and email
Choose a ‘touchstone friend’ – a person you trust and with whom you can freely voice your feelings, thoughts and reactions
Practice positive affirmation – thinking or saying positive statements about ourselves can shift our mindset especially during difficult moments when negativity prevails
Practice mindful breathing, meditation or prayer
Source: UK P&I Club