Volume 1 Module 1 Online - Emotional Fitness

Goals of this Module

  • Explain the meaning of emotional fitness and the importance of managing our emotional state to have a good effect on others;
  • Consider how emotional fitness benefits seafarers;
  • Understand that we can all improve our emotional fitness.

 We all have different levels of emotional fitness.

Q: Read the following information then take a moment to answer the question below.

Someone with a lot of emotional fitness knows themselves well, they are aware of their strengths, weaknesses and values.  They can manage their moods effectively and are aware of the effect they have on others. 

They are also able to get to know and understand other people, and they have the social skills to interact well and get the best out of other people. 

How might good emotional fitness benefit seafarers?

Many scientific studies show emotional fitness helps many areas of our lives, but particularly in the workplace.  It is important to know how you personally cope with difficulty and competing demands. 

Scenario 1

As humans, we are strongly affected by our circumstances – we all have good days and bad days.

Q: Read the following scenario then discuss with a partner.

The regular pilot is onboard.  He lights a cigarette without asking. 

You have asked him in the past not to smoke on the bridge as it is bad for people’s health and against the rules of your company. 

How do you feel? How do you respond?

Someone with a low level of emotional fitness may respond differently to someone with a high level of emotional fitness. 

Scenario 2

Knowing yourself includes knowing what effect you have on others.

Q: Read the following scenario then discuss with a partner.

Weather conditions are bad and there are very high seas. You see something breaking loose on deck that needs immediate attention.  You step out onto deck and immediately someone calls you back and shouts at you because you were not wearing a safety line or flotation device.

? How do you feel? How do you respond?

Your level of emotional fitness can influence the time it takes to accept a situation. It can also influence how positively or negatively you see why the person was shouting at you.

Signs of good emotional fitness

Q: Look at this list of signs of good emotional fitness. Tick each one that you can confidently do.

Signs of good emotional fitness2

Help another person change a negative emotion to a positive emotion

yes / no

Express joy when good things happen yes / no
Manage your own emotions when under pressure yes / no
Help another person regulate emotions after they have suffered a loss yes / no
Not be discouraged by criticism yes / no
Use positive emotions to generate good ideas yes / no
Know what emotion another person is feeling by looking at their facial expression yes / no
Quickly deal with bad experiences and move on yes / no
Cheer yourself up when an unpleasant event has happened yes / no
Put yourself in a mood that best suits the occasion yes / no

Keep practicing! Nobody is permanently in a state of mental fitness….

Scenario 3

Q: Read the following scenario then discuss the question with a partner.

There are two vessels crossing a busy sea-lane at night.  The weather conditions are bad, and even seasoned sailors are suffering. 

On one vessel the Chief Engineer (C/E) receives a high temperature alarm on the main engine freshwater cooling system which automatically shuts down the main engine.  The C/E calls the engineering team together. He is obviously stressed, and angrily tells everybody that this is a problem that should not have happened. He says that someone hasn’t done their job, and they need to urgently solve the problem, and to get the engine restarted, whatever it takes.  After that he intends to find out who was responsible for allowing this situation to develop and will personally make sure that person is never employed by the company again.

On the other vessel the C/E receives the same message about the high temperature alarm and the engine shuts down.  He calls the team together.  This C/E recognises that he is anxious – after all this situation is serious.  He realises that he needs to remain calm when speaking to the team.  He manages his emotions during the meeting, calmly sets out what needs to be done, and encourages the team to work together, calmly and without rushing, to repair the cooling system and get the engine restarted.  One of the junior engineers is particularly nervous and the C/E responds supportively and talks them through what they need to do.

? Which Chief Engineer is likely to complete the task successfully, safely and with the trust and support of their team? Why do you think that?

Managing your own fears, anxiety, anger or uncertainty can help support other members of your team.

Summary of volume 1, module 1

Q: Take a moment to write down what you will remember from this session and what you want to do as a result.

In this session we have talked about what we mean by emotional fitness and why it helps seafarers.  We looked at the signs that someone has a high level of emotional fitness.  We considered some typical scenarios and how people who know themselves can be aware of their emotional state and manage it so it does not have a bad effect on other people, or on the operation of the vessel.

Like most things in life, emotional fitness requires practice.  Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, at work or at home, ask yourself – am I monitoring my emotional state?  Are my emotions making this situation better, or worse?

References for this module include the following sources:

1Di Fabio, A and Saklofske, D (2020) The relationship of compassion and self-compassion with personality and emotional intelligence, Personality and Individual Differences, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2020.110109
2Emotional self-efficacy, Nicola S Schutte, An Introduction to Emotional Intelligence, Wiley