Finding inner peace on ocean wave

Updated: 2013-08-01 09:33

By Peng Yining (China Daily)

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"Li has been working under extreme pressure and he feels guilty for being apart from his family," said Ma Haiying, a Peace Ark psychologist and a specialist at the Chinese Navy's Medical Research Institute. "Sometimes a high level of anxiety can cause feelings of physical discomfort, such as insomnia."

During the 60-minute consultation, Ma taught Li a number of relaxation techniques to use before going to bed, such as repeatedly wrapping his arms across his chest and then releasing them.

"I also gave him some positive feedback and reminded him how important his job is. Millions of people are living safely with their families because of his sacrifice," Ma said. "He's going to spend a further 70 days in the gulf, so it's better to deal with the pressures with a positive attitude."

Many sailors experience psycho-emotional stress a couple of months into a voyage, because of the harsh, bumpy life out on the ocean, long hours on night shifts and the pressure of working in a strange and dangerous environment, according to Ma.

Finding inner peace on ocean wave

An officer from the Van Speyk comes aboard the Peace Ark. Zhang Hao / for China Daily

She stressed that psychological counseling doesn't equate to an admission of mental illness. The service she provides helps the sailors to stay in peak condition so they can continue to work efficiently and effectively. "A positive mental attitude helps them to be better sailors and better people," she said.

"Out at sea, you can turn through 360 degrees and see nothing but water. It definitely changes the way you look at the world. All the things you are familiar with on land have gone. You can't even see a single green leaf," she explained.

The only green plant on the vessel, which has a crew of more than 400, is a pot of aloes in Ma's consulting room. The psychologist said the plant makes her office cozier and more comfortable for visitors.

"At the beginning of a voyage you don't notice how much you miss things on land. But after a month or so, crew members started to come to my office to touch the plant and even take photos of it."