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Navigating Safely Back Home

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 :

  • 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



Seafarers and their family members can contact Sailors’ Society’s dedicated helpline by calling +1-938-222-8181 or instant chat via

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


  • 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

· 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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