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IMEQ Mental Health Guide Lesson#4

March 26, 2018


Is Stress Getting to  You?



Stress and anxiety are prevalent and enduring aspects of  everyday life. We all encounter and deal  with stressful events in our personal, professional or social life.   It is important to remember that not all stress is negative, eustress is positive  stress, since it motivates us to produce and maximize our output and creativity, in contrast  distress is negative stress, and it is evident when a person perceives himself  as lacking the ability  or the resources to control a stressful situation ( Selye, 1976).  


Unequivocally,  seafaring is a  strenuous  occupation  and seafarers are exposed to an increased number of work related stressors : fatigue, long working hours,  job monotony, noise, vibration, temperature changes, a  multinational environment,  limited recreation  activity,  isolation , long separation periods away from home ….  Factors that may  produce an imbalance between  work demands and   personal  resources   leading to  a decline in physical and psychological health  and an increased risk for accidents and  injuries. ( Carotenuto, et. al.,  2012).


Stress is  defined as a  negative emotional experience accompanied by physiological, cognitive and behavioral changes and responses aimed to reduce or change the stressful event or effects of it ( Baum, 1990).  How well we cope with stress  is mediated via our appraisal of the stressor , and  the resources available to deal effectively with the stressor.


Most seafarers are suffer from moderate to high stress  that can lead to a vicious cycle  of unhealthy behaviors that can be difficult to escape from :  sleeping disturbances, unhealthy eating, weight gain causing mental and physical ailments.


Physical symptoms of stress include irritability , anger, fatigue, lack of interest  or motivation, nervousness, anxiety, sadness, muscular tension, headaches, indigestion, stomach problems,  appetite changes, faintness, dizziness, erectile dysfunction, change in sex drive,  teeth grinding .



Tips for dealing with stress onboard:


Develop Resources:

1.Identify your strengths, capacities, skills that strengthen your confidence.  Think of a survival resource that helped you cope with a stressful experience in the past.


2. Assess, recognize  and develop your creative resources: talents, skills or competencies, traits etc.

What is your creative resource?  Optimism ?  humor ? flexibility?


3. Evaluate your resources  are they external or internal? Internal resources refer to personality traits  such as humor, optimism, courage, flexibility , spiritual connections, accountability etc. External resources can be  hobbies, activities, team  or religious associations, social support, teams etc


4. Use cognitive re-appraisal when evaluating a negative event  notice the negative thinking that is causing you the emotional tension . It is mostly how we interpret events that evoke strong negative emotions.


5.  Engage and interact with other onboard - do not isolate yourself— become interested in learning about your team mates.


6. Establish an open communication channel with someone  you trust and openly discuss possible difficulties or concerns you have.


7. Do not let negative emotions hijack you.   When something bothers you  address it immediately  don’t  turn it into  rage, sadness and resentment.


8. Keep your expectations realistic.


9. Be accountable for your actions.


10.  Develop  a healthy lifestyle  onboard  :    a. eat  healthy and balanced meals    b. maintain a sleep – rest schedule   c. exercise regularly  4. develop pastime activities  games, puzzles, reading time


11. Keep a diary  write your thoughts and feelings.  


12. Practice mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

Adverse experiences can  interfere with our ability to remain “present”  we may find ourselves focusing on negative events,  painful memories  or anticipate that the future will bring more problems and distress.  When we find ourselves dwelling on the past or in painful and negative memories, we are depriving ourselves of the necessary resources to deal with the present. Mindfulness can help us discover the resources we need to cope  with stressful events in the present.



  • Our thoughts, meanings and beliefs we hold about ourselves,  others and the world.

  • Our emotions , our mood and our feelings,.

  • Our  five senses, perceptions  :  taste, touch, image, sound and  smell perceptions,

  • Our movements including our facial expression, gestures and posture and

  • Our bodily sensations . the vibrations or the tingling of the body sensations


Practicing a Positive  Experience-  the Good Moment

Think of a good moment when you felt untroubled. The moment can be as simple as eating dinner with a loved one, or reading  a good  book, or watching a movie etc.


  1. On a piece of paper  briefly describe your good moment

  2. Take a few  long breaths  and  let your self sink into the good moment, describe each of the 5  Building Blocks of  your good moment


  • Your Thoughts during the good moment

  • Your Emotions during the good  moment

  • Your Five Sense Perceptions ( images, sounds , smells, taste, touch)

  • Your Movements

  • Body Sensations


  1. Notice which  Building Block best helped you connect with the positive feelings of this good moment? Which one could you focus on to help you feel again this good feeling?


Building on positive and good moments of our experiences can alleviate or ease the burden of stressful and difficult moments at present.


Research has shown that practicing mindful mediation on a daily basis reducesstress and stress related symptoms.

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