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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Flying With a Clear Head

Tips for Keeping Stress at Bay 
By: Helen Bell

Professional flying can be a stressful business. The hours, the complexities, the can all add up to a rather anxiety-making cocktail. This is more serious than it may seem. Work-related stress is a major issue in any business, but for pilots and air crews in particular, stress can be dangerous. Chronic stress is not only deeply unpleasant in its own right, but it can contribute to a number of health conditions, including depression, immune problems, and even obesity. Not only this, but it can be very distracting to people trying to work in an environment in which distractions are not particularly welcome. It is therefore very important to keep your stress levels as low as possible, and to take care of your mental health. Here are some tips which may help you to do this.

Put Your Life In Order

Life is stressful. Sometimes it throws things our way which we cannot have predicted, and this frequently results in a lot of stress. Unfortunately, we cannot predict everything and therefore cannot prevent this kind of unexpected stress from occurring. However, we can try to make sure that those areas of our lives over which we do have control are running as smoothly as possible, and that we have certain contingencies in place in case of emergencies. 
Things like getting money in order, for example, can give you a certain amount of peace of mind - something which many people find very valuable when they're trying to get to sleep! Similarly, simple things like making sure that all your bills are paid on time, your affairs are in order, your home is in a good state of repair, and you're generally on top of most things in your life will ensure that stresses do not pile up until they become unbearable. It may sound simplistic, but the removal of little, daily stressors will in fact do wonders for your overall mental resilience!

Build 'Mental Downtime' Into Your Day

It may be that you lead a naturally stressful life, and it may be that there's little you can do to remove the practical causes of this stress. However, you can increase your own ability to deal with that stress. Our brains are actually quite efficient at processing and minimizing psychological angst - but they need to be given a chance in which to do so. 
These days, we don't tend to stop, relax, and give our brains the time and space they need to begin sorting through our stressors and dealing with the psychological and physical fallout. Instead, we carry on conducting our lives at full-throttle, shunt stress to the back of our minds, and consequently spend any 'relaxation' time worrying away at our problems - seeking solutions rather than letting the strain seep away. Giving your brain some 'downtime' - i.e. going for a walk, meditating, simply relaxing and switching off for a bit - will allow your brain's natural stress-relief systems to come into play. You'll notice the difference after only a few hours.

Take Time Off

We live in a world in which overtime is lauded, and those who refuse their time off are considered to have an excellent work ethic. Do not buy into this. Humans are not designed to spend their entire lives working. Your performance, your mental health, and even your relationships may suffer if you do not take the time off to which you are entitled. Nobody will think the worse of you if you take the vacations allotted to you - particularly as those who do take regular breaks from work tend on the whole to be better at what they do than those who do not. Breaks give you something to look forward to, which can help during the most stressful times, and they give your body and mind a chance to cool off, deal with stress, replenish, and fortify themselves against the next onslaught. So don't buy into the idea that you must eschew all free time and work until you are exhausted - do what's best for yourself and those around you, and go on a stress-busting vacation. Remember, you'll be a lot better at your job if you do so!  
Helen Bell 

Mental health is essential for pilots

A mentally healthy, properly trained, pilot can handle most anything. While many people view mental health as the extreme case of the German Wings pilot, and the characters I wrote about in my novel Flight For Control, the truth is that much of what we face in life can cause stress. Family. Finances. Work. Health. Fatigue. A little stress can be good and is actually motivating. But too much stress can break anyone. The question is, where is that breaking point for you? The problem is that long term stress can also impact your health. I can personally attest to that. So make sure you take care of yourself. 

Make a Resolution this Year 
To be Good to Yourself. 
Put Your Oxygen Mask on First! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene



  1. Excellent Tips and Information, thank you for sharing!

  2. Love this! Especially the 'take time off' part. I'm a BIG believer in that one!

    1. Thank you Heather! I'm a believer too...but now need to live what I believe. :)

  3. Good write up on a very pertinent topic. Happy landings.

    1. Ashish, Thank you for the comment!! Happy Landings to you too.


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