How to Deal with Stress When Working in Seafarer Jobs

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.

container ship with cloudy, stormy sky overhead

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

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.

pink neon sign saying 'and breathe'

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.

Scrabble tiles spelling the words 'listen more'

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.

hand making chill out sign in front of a ship's wake

Read more: Two-Way Communication Tips for Seafarers & Their Families

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.
pink neon sign saying 'good vibes only'

Read more: Jobs at Sea and How to Deal with a Negative Crewmate

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!
bulk carrier at sunset

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.

smiling female officer taking a selfie on deck
Courtesy of the IMO #MaritimeWomenPhotoShare Campaign

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.