Tips for Crew How to Deal with the Fear of Coronavirus

Mar 18, 2020

Following all the uncertainty the cruise ship crew members are facing during these difficult times Crew Center has reached out for advice by a former crew member who is now working as a medical professional on how to keep our mental health and support each other.

Years ago, well more than a decade, before I boarded my very first ship I remember having $150 in my pocket and being welcomed by hurricane Wilma. For a girl who has never seen a hurricane I didn’t know what that meant, yet the ship did not come to the dock and we were stuck in the hotels with limited supply for a while. In the States $150 did not go as long way as it did back home. I remember starving and questioning my future being in a foreign country where I did not know anyone and no ability to call out to figure out my next step. I was so young and inexperienced filled with nothing but fear until I realized that I have two choices: allow for fear to consume me or have faith that I can learn from this and overcome it!

The ship came eventually and cruise life started with training. One of the trainings that stayed forever in my memory and that was useful when life got hard was the training about crisis response and management. The example of “if the ship was sinking and people were in panic what would they most likely do?” followed by the video of people trampling over each other got me thinking how many people end up injured during such panic versus how many could have been saved?

Today, as I look back on my life and working as a medical professional that training has been helpful in many moments, from life or death crisis and as simple as assuring my own personal wellbeing. As the Coronavirus spread pretty rapidly in Seattle where I am currently based, my friends speak with me in confusion as “how can you be so calm?” 

So here are few foods for thought:

1. The importance of strengthening your immune system: any virus attacks the immune system and the weaker the immune system the greater the likelihood that the virus can plant itself and continue to weaken the same. Getting enough sleep, rest, healthy food consumption, appropriate water consumption, increasing vitamin intake, and practicing appropriate hygiene assures that the immune system is stronger and would be able to fight over even this virus. Prevention even though sometimes is more work and higher cost, it is the best way to fight off any issue that we could have. Most importantly in maintaining immune system strong is maintaining calm and with positive mindset as stress kills in more ways than one.

2. Reducing stress levels: while information is important to have, understanding that some information increases our stress levels and consistent bombarding with negative information increases anxiety, fear and sometimes even helplessness/hopelessness that can place a person in depressive state gives us understanding to be balanced when informed. The question to ask is “how does this information serve me.” If it serves you to know what to do, respond, and what to expect utilize it. However, if it does not then it is time to dispose it. Another question to ask is “did I all of a sudden started reading more about this and talk about it none stop with everyone to the point of consuming my life?” If the question is yes, then it’s time to shift to enjoyable things that bring you joy such as reading a romantic novel, watching a comedy show, painting a picture, writing an inspirational list of things you are striving for, talk about childhood memories and moments when you were able to not only survive, but also thrive and conquer. Practice mindfulness and meditation, being present in the moment right here, right now instead of all over the world.

3. Mindset will either make you or break you: few days ago I went on a ski trip with one of my colleagues. We are quite extroverted and don’t do very well closed in. We thought about our risk and benefits, considered the possibility of contracting Corona (especially me since I have higher risk due to pre-existing upper respiratory condition) and made the decision that skiing was it for us. We were not going to allow this virus to stop us from living and enjoying our life because if we did, then the virus won on more levels than one. We enjoyed our time skiing and as I flew off my skis and hit my head I realized that there are so many things in life that can or could have killed me by now, yet I made always the conscious decision to keep on living my life the best I can. 

4. Resilience: the definition of resilience is the ability to withstand or recover quickly from a difficult condition. As a medical provider, I have seen so many things that should or could have broken any person and shutter their life completely. Yet, I often stand in awe when I see the mother who lost her children, facing difficulties, and experiencing homelessness without any education under her belt take steps to overcome such difficulties. The hardship, struggle and pain is still there, but the desire and ability to take one step at a time to overcome difficulty is greater. Often I hear the sentence “I learned more about myself in that moment than all moments combined” versus the mindset of “there is nothing I can do.”

5. Empathy: the definition of empathy is to understand and share the feelings of others. In time of uprise in fear for self, loved ones, and loss of resources lies anxiety that people can experience. It is in these moments when empathy comes in hand to support one another as we do not stand alone. It is natural to fear certain things that are happening around us and fear potential things from happening. The simple “I understand where you’re coming from” and “I’m here for you” can go a long way to reduce the level of fear and anxiety in a person. It brings certainty that the person is not alone in the struggle and a sense of community, as well as support

6. Community: as people are fearing loss of work and with the same loss of resources to support their families it is time for reinforcing ones community. I remember leaving the ships and thinking to myself “what do I do now, for the longest time this is all I have known.” In that moment of fear and uncertainty, it was my community composed of family and friends who came to my salvation in more ways than one. They provided me moral and emotional support, gave me shelter and food, and also reminded me that I have more than enough ability and talents to manage land life and assure my own financial security. Until then, they were there to help me through the journey. As crew members have those fears, I would like to remind of all their abilities and trainings that can be useful in more avenues than just ships. Remind yourself that you can do this and seek your community for support, then half the battle is won.

7. Faith and hope: yes, I am aware that these are religious terms that not every person subscribes to, but it is important to maintain the faith and hope in ourselves and each other. Faith that this is a terrible tragedy that occurred in our lifetime, but that historically looking back faith that we can conquer it just like our ancestors conquered the Black Plague, flue, and so much more. Our generation today has even more knowledge and capabilities to research and develop vaccines than ever before. Faith that our humanity lies in gracious empathy and understanding even when we do not appear to see it. And hope, which we have all heard “hope dies last,” that even with the unfortunate loss of lives we will learn something essential about ourselves and how we approach this world to follow. 

I think about all this and all my training that I got that first day aboard the ship, I never thought that it will impact my life this much and become handy in moments like this. There were so many things that were designed to destroy me, but instead, they built me into a wiser and stronger individual. Yet, I cannot help but think that this virus may not be our greatest enemy at this very moment, but the fear that takes away our joy from our own humanity which effects not only our behaviors, but also our economy which in turn feeds that fear even stronger and thus gives the virus greater strength than it actually deserves. And as my mother pleas with me to stay home and not go to work, I remind her that my oath is to help people and fear will not keep me from doing so, just as once upon a lifetime ago fear didn’t make me run from getting on that first ship even after the devastation of a hurricane. I call on all to take a stance and oath of no fear status and step boldly into our humanity with all its Beauty and Beasts.