Mindfulness can help seafarers tame their anxiety while managing the heavy workloads at sea
Seafarers deal with heavy workloads. Prolonged periods without proper rest can cause stress and anxiety. The crew change crisis accompanied by various travel bans, resulting in extended stays onboard significantly worsened seafarers’ mental wellbeing.
Minds full vs mindful
The Nautical Institute, a United Kingdom-based international professional organisation for maritime professionals, noted the significant number of accidents that happened due to an individual’s failure to think forward. Rev David Reid of Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute (AFNI), highlighted: “Our minds can be full of things, but we may lack mindful presence and concentration in what we are doing. On the other side, it is observed that accidents that were about to happen but eventually did not, was because someone had the presence of mind to act properly, ask a question or take an immediate action. As a result, being mindful can change the course of the events and assist in preventing casualties at sea.”
Rev Reid defined mindfulness through referencing a book by David Gelles, “Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally. Mindfulness can be considered as a tool that we can use to return our nervous system to its parasympathetic mode, thereby reducing stress and improving wellness.” Parasympathetic mode refers to the nervous system’s state of rest and digest.
Reid added, “In nautical terms, we always need the tools to respond rapidly to an emergency, but we also need the tools to return to a steady state. We may have better technology today, but we also have other stress to face; that is why mindfulness is of major importance.”
How does one return to state of rest after a period of fight mode? Reid reveals the key tool of mindfulness is learning how to modulate breathing. “Studies have shown that Vegal Tone (the activity of Vagus nerve) can regulate stress and can be influenced by deep breathing. When Vegal Tone improves, the body can relax from stress,” he noted.
Reid advised, “When you have negative thoughts, try to sit down, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. Sitting and breathing for even just a minute can help. Paying attention and observing things also enhance mindfulness. It might be hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. However, try to take the time to experience your environment with all your senses, touch, sound, sight, smell and taste.”