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Dealing  with Lockdown at Sea



Author:  Penelope Robotis 

Clinical – Occupational Psychologist 


The sudden onset of the Covid 19 and the unprecedented  impact on our lives whether  we are on a lockdown at home,  stranded  at sea; working in the first line; or on furlough  can take an emotional toll on all of us.  The experience of living through this outbreak will daunt us for a while, even  after we return to some kind of normalcy because the impact on our wellbeing may be the new pandemic we will all  need to face.  Being proactive and  protecting our mental health  is a priority that we all need to address. 


A lot of the media coverage  has focused on the vulnerability  of first line respondents ,  and the victims of the pandemic,    but limited coverage  has  given to special populations  like seafarers who may be stranded at sea unable to return home due to travel restrictions and borders closings.  The impact of this aberrant situation   on thousands of seafarers can have unforeseen consequences to their mental health.


Organizations, authorities and shipping companies collaborate  to facilitate crew changes  and repatriation processes, however,   travel restrictions, border closings make it almost impossible for seafarers whose contact agreements are ending to return home . According to the International Transport Federation ,   about 100,000 seafarers per month are unable to return home or be relieved by new crews. 


To our seafarers who work endlessly and under strenuous  conditions  facing the  precarious challenges of the pandemic can  be overwhelming ;  we  wish you strength and courage as you transition though these challenging times and we  hope you  find our video of assistance during these unprecedented times. 


Dealing with lockdowns at sea

Being  stuck  at sea  during such unprecedented times  can trigger feelings of uncertainty about the future causing anger, fear, anxiety and sadness.  Recognizing these common symptoms and being proactive  may not resolve the problem but can certainly  mitigate the  psychological effects of the  lockdown  you are experiencing at sea.     

Some common signs of anxiety and depression   that people may be experiencing include:  

Physical signs:

  • Headaches, neck tension, gastrointestinal problems, etc.

  • Sleep problems

  • Decreased of no  appetite

  • Decreased  energy, fatigue



Psychological and emotional signs:
  • Worrying about your health and the health of your loved ones

  • Feelings of being overwhelmed by events, powerlessness

  • Negative thinking or negative perception of daily events 

  • Feelings of discouragement, insecurity, sadness, anger, etc.

Behavioral signs:
  • Difficulty in concentrating

  • Difficulty carrying our daily tasks 

  • Irritability, aggression

  • Crying

  • Withdrawal

  • Difficulty in taking decisions

  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs and/or medication

If you or someone onboard is experiencing  any signs do not hesitate to address them,  being proactive entails taking actions to protect your wellbeing .  Instead of  anticipating and worrying about  when this will end,  you  can proactively engage in  activities that will foster a sense of control and empowerment . Not  all practices may be helpful or practical   just keep an open mind and experiment  with whatever works for you to alleviate the burden of the lockdown at sea and protect your wellbeing. 

Some common practices include:

  • Stay informedby using reliable sources to get your updates

  • Limit the time allocatedto seeking information ; overload of information can aggravate anxiety and stress

  • Be awareof   your feelings, thoughts and reactions .  We may not choose the way we feel but we can always choose how we react to those feelings  

  • Practice gratitude and kindnesswith your colleagues onboard. Kindness research improves your wellbeing ; evokes positive feelings and gives you a sense of self worth and purpose;  this a time of unity not division.

  • Connect with others with  care and compassion; We are all in the same boat

  • Stay in touchwith your family and friends via  social media, phone, email, facetime, WhatsApp ,  messenger , Facebook, Instagram   

  • Choose   “ touchstone friend”   a person  that you trust and with whom you  freely voice your feelings, thoughts and reactions  of what you are experiencing

  • Establish a daily routine; this  action is of paramount importance during lockdowns!!!! That includes daily physical activity, regulated sleep schedule and eating healthy meals.

  • Engage in one  pleasant  activity every daylike listening to your favorite music, reading a good book, watching a  funny movies , playing  board or card games and do puzzles   with a colleague.  A great source for puzzles :   https://www.jigsawexplorer.com/

  • Practice Positive affirmations:  those are positive statements  we tellourselves in order to shift our mindset especially during difficult moments when negativity prevails . By affirming to something  we are stating it to be “ true”.

  • Choose  positive affirmationsthat are powerful for you and repeat them throughout the day .You may also write down  on your journal  and read them aloud.  

Some positive affirmations you can use or make up you own  to tell yourself when stress, fear  or anxiety hijacks you 


“ I am doing  the best I can possibly do right now”

“This is the best I can do under the circumstances” 

“I wake up today with strength in my heart and clarity in my mind”

“I believe in my ability to get through tough times”

“I will not stress over things I cannot control”

“I will be present and calm today”

“All of my feelings are okay”

“I  take things one day  at a time”

“I  have everything I need within me”

“I have been through hard things before and have survived them”

“This will not break me”

“I let go of what I can’t change and do my best with what I can”

  • Practice  breathing, meditation or pray  .

The following breathing exercise  is designed to help you relax whenever tension arises.



The 4,5,8 breathing  exercise

Find a quiet place,  close your eyes or focus on something peaceful . Lower your shoulders and sit comfortably on a chair  with your back straight  and feet on the floor. 

  1. Close your mouth and  breath slowly   through your nose silently counting  to 4 (four)

  2. Hold your breath silently  counting to 5 ( five)

  3. Open you mouth  and let your breath out through your mouth   silently counting to 8  (eight) 

  • Repeat the cycle a total of 4 times. Do not perform this breathing technique if performing some activity or driving.  This breathing activity is intended to  induce  a relaxed state of being.  

  • Practice the breathing exercise whenever you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. 

  • At the end of the breathing exercise you may repeat a powerful affirmation.



Listed below is a list of telephone helplines to contact  if your or a colleague needs to talk or requires assistance. You may also contact  our Immediate Crisis Response Center 


email: icrc@imeq-center.com 








Seafarers and their family members can contact Sailors’ Society’s dedicated helpline by calling +1-938-222-8181 or instant chat via www.wellnessatsea.org/covid-19

National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline (NCMH-USAP)
Provides mental health support for all affected by COVID-19

  • 0917-899-USAP(8727) | 7-7-989-USAP (827)

Philippine Mental Health Association Online Support
Provides mental health support for all affected by COVID-19

  • PMHA Facebook Messenger

  • pmhacds@gmail.com

  • 0917-565-2036

Check the  link below for list of hotlines around  the world: 




Free telephone helplines


·      Seafarers Advice & Information Line
Free telephone service for seafarers and fishers on debt, housing, benefits, pensions, employment and relationships and family issues. Phone FREEPHONE 0800 160 1842 or email advice@sailine.org.uk.


·      SeafarerHelp
Provided by the International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network (ISWAN) – a free, confidential, multilingual helpline for seafarers of any nationality, religion, gender or sexuality, and their families available 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. A list of COVID-19 related resources is also available on their website.


·      Seafarer Support
SeafarerSupport is a UK free telephone and signposting service. Seafarer Support assesses the needs of the individual and then signposts you to the appropriate support. Call them on FREEPHONE 0800 121 4765.


·      Sailors Helpline
The Sailors Helpline is based out of Chennai, India. Its purpose is to serve the maritime fraternity of India with emergency social services. Confidentiality is of prime importance and all calls and emails in liaison with this organisation are kept completely private. It is an NGO and non-governmental in nature, attracting volunteers from the legal profession, the church and others involved in the industry



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