How to Deal with Stress When Working in Seafarer Jobs
If you’re someone who is working in a seafarer’s job, you don’t need us to tell you that life onboard can sometimes be stressful. Working on a vessel can come with its very own set of unique challenges.
But it’s how you deal with those challenges that can mean the difference between a successful career at sea and one that makes you wonder why you went to all the time and trouble of putting yourself through school and maritime training.
In this blog post we will take a look at some ways you can manage stress and any feelings of anxiety while you're working in a job at sea.
Read more: 4 Wellness Tips for Officers of the Watch
How to deal with stress when working in seafarer jobs
First of all, let’s take a quick look at some of the difficulties that you face as a seafarer on a container ship.
It’s important to understand the factors behind the stress so that you are better equipped to deal with it. We also have some blog posts relating to these particular issues, so carry on reading if you’d like to explore a particular area of concern.
Challenges faced by seafarers that can contribute to stress
- Spending time away from your loved ones - here are some tips on how to cope with working away from home
- A lack of social life or missing your buddies - here’s some ideas for creating more of a community onboard
- Poor motivation which can lead to a lack of interest in your work - here’s how to maintain a sense of pride in your work as a seafarer
- Not being able to get a good night sleep onboard your ship - check out these tips for getting a good night sleep when you work in a seafarer job
- Feeling like you can’t communicate with your fellow crew due to cultural or language differences - we’ve got some ideas on how to communicate better when working at sea
If you’re struggling with any of the above issues while you’re working in a job at sea, keep on reading as we’ll explore some ways you can get a handle on your stress or anxiety.
Tips for dealing with stress in a career at sea
Start communicating more effectively
As we’ve covered briefly above, not being able to communicate with your fellow seafarers properly, due to culture differences, different native tongues, or even clashing personalities can be the root of a lot of stress.
In seafarer jobs it is crucial that communication is effective for the safe operation of the vessel and her crew.
But communicating isn’t just about talking - it’s also about listening.
Listening to what is going on around you, listening to commands and instructions, listening to someone who is trying to communicate on a personal level to just have a chat - they’re all important. Especially if someone has a different style of communication to you, or an accent that you find a little tricky to understand.
Developing your listening skills will benefit you both professionally and personally. But how do you do that?
Be honest with yourself and think about how you listen to people. Take into consideration the following things:
- Do you finish other people’s sentences because you’re too impatient?
- Do you let someone finish what they’re saying? Or do you interrupt them?
- Do you make sure you’ve actually listened to and taken onboard any instructions or advice?
Not understanding what is going on, what you’ve been told, what you’re supposed to do next is stressful. But by taking a more considered approach to communication and listening properly you might just find that some of the stress is eliminated.
Steer clear of negativity
Negativity is stressful. It’s not nice to be around people who are negative and it can take a fair bit of self restraint to not be affected by the emotions of others - especially if they’re complaining constantly.
Of course, serious issues should be addressed but if you’re finding yourself trapped in a cycle of negativity and you have one or two crewmates who you’ve realized are affecting your mood, you need to step away.
Don’t get sucked into complaining and moaning - even if it’s just to make conversation. Change the way you react and you should find your stress alleviating. For example, if someone you work with is about to launch into another round of complaints while you’re stuck in the engine room, on deck or in the wheelhouse with them try:
- Telling yourself to focus on the positives - maybe the situation isn’t that great, but is there a silver lining to the cloud?
- Reminding yourself that this might be their issue and it doesn’t necessarily even affect you - so why get upset about it?
- Counteracting their complaints with a cheerful attitude of your own to try and lighten the mood - kill those negative vibes!
- If all else fails, and you are able to, walk away and go and find something else to do.
Try not to get sucked into the daily grind
Easier said than done we know - after all, we all work, whether it’s ashore or a job at sea. But when you’re isolated on a vessel for months on end, it’s important to try and stay positive.
In any workplace, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of only ever talking about work as if it is the be all and end all. And especially when you’re onboard, it can be easy to lose sight of what is waiting for you at home and why you’re doing this job.
But endless talk of trying to line up your next job and employer, of working hard and waiting so long to move up the ranks, and even discussing salary, is only going to add to the stress.
So what can you do to lift yourself out of this black hole?
- Remember why you wanted to work in a seafarer job in the first place.
- Remind yourself of all the awesome benefits of maritime jobs: travel, sunsets, great friends!
- Step away from conversations that threaten to bring you down.
- Be glad that you don’t work in an office and appreciate your vessel!
A few more tips for staying happy and stress-free onboard
There is no magic cure for eliminating stress but there are definitely things you can do on a day to day basis to boost your mental health as a seafarer. For example:
- Focus on what makes you happy onboard.
- Be the best crewmate you can be and spread positivity around.
- Invest your free time in your future by training, learning and educating yourself.
- Stay physically active - it’s well known this helps mental wellbeing.
- Don’t forget to de-stress when you get home too.
How to deal with stress in seafarer jobs: conclusion
Many jobs are stressful. Seafarer jobs in particular come with added responsibilities and baggage. If you’re thinking about starting a career at sea, there are definitely some questions you should ask yourself first to make sure it’s the right fit for you.
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And if you’re already working in a job at sea and are feeling stressed, we hope some of our tips in this blog post will help you.
Thank you, seafarers, for helping to keep the world turning.
Eve is Martide's content writer and publishes regular posts on everything from our maritime recruitment and crew planning software to life at sea.