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WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY OCTOBER 1O 2020

Bridging Connections

Our world is transforming as COVID-19 continues to notoriously challenge our lives and new realities restrict our daily routine . During the past few months seafarers have faced many challenges as a result of the restrictions imposed by the pandemic; difficult working conditions, crew changeovers and repatriation difficulties. Unquestionably, these adversities can make seafarers particularly vulnerable to feelings of loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression… .

While adverse circumstances may be inevitable to control , luckily there are practices that we can engage in to alleviate the stress , strengthen our wellbeing and foster resiliency and that is : empathic relationships. Studies have shown that positive social relationships are particularly helpful when it come to building resiliency, promote a sense of security and mitigate mental health implications following disasters or crises.

Emotional communication foster connections and when care and compassion embrace our interactions with others, these connections can lead to positive relationships that ease the suffering and help us feel less lonely, stressed and sad during difficult times.

Connecting to others requires a) a mindful awareness of our own thoughts and feelings as well as a mindful awareness of another person’s feelings and thoughts b) empathy , which is in the simplest form is the ability to open our mind to sense another person’s experience and point of view c) the ability to share and express our inner thoughts and feelings in a give and take communication that is both verbal and non verbal and d) the ability to attune to another person without judging and trying to fix things.

When we engage in a caring and empathic communication, we actively listen to one another to what the other person shares at the moment not what we think we hear and this helps us make sense of the other person’s experience ; and through this sharing of our experiences we create meaning and meaningful relationships. This sensory experience of another person becomes part of us giving us an invigorating sense of unity and interconnectedness that cultivates a sense of security and safety .

Practices to help build positive personal relationships:

· Set time for connecting with family, friends, colleagues onboard and significant others

· Be present, attentive and mindful of your inner emotions and thoughts as they emerge

· Actively listen to what others are sharing and avoid judging or fixing the problem or the issue

· Validate another person’s view by simply saying” I understand what you are saying” or “ what you are saying makes sense” . This simple form of validation fosters an understanding because it conveys to the other person : “Your ideas make sense from your point of view” . Validation is not a form of agreement or disagreement.

· Practice empathy which is simply the ability to understand the feeling or feelings another person is experiencing ; could be sadness, anger, love, loneliness, frustration, excitement…. By simply stating the feeling : “ I can only imagine this must make you feel sad, lonely and scared”…

Positive personal relationships provide meaning to our experiences, protect physical and mental health, and promote personal and community growth.