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Head In The Clouds: Looking After Your Mental Health

Working in the aviation industry is more than just a job. It’s a lifestyle choice, beloved by millions around the world.

But behind airline crew’s perfectly pressed uniforms and pearly white smiles, many struggle with mental health issues, and sadly it’s a growing problem.

Studies have shown that every week, one in six adults in the UK alone experience symptoms of mental health problems such as anxiety or depression. Yet it is a subject that is often overlooked. Indeed the International Civil Aviation Organisation claims stigma and discrimination surrounding depression and mental ill-health in aviation still exists.

It’s ok not to be ok!

But it’s not a subject that should be shied away from. It should be talked about openly. It should be a topic that has no stigma attached to it.

Here at Confessions of a Trolley Dolly we want to offer some support to any of our aviation family who may be struggling. With the help of our Cabin Crew colleagues, we have put together some of our top tips for dealing with everyday mental health issues:

  • Try not to focus on the things you cannot change. I know it’s easier said than done, especially when it feels like your whole world is falling apart. Try instead to focus that energy on making yourself feel better.

“Accept the things you cannot change, have courage to change the things you can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

  • Do what feels right for you! Listen to what your mind and body are telling you. If you want to rest, then rest. Please don’t feel guilty about it. One of the body’s main reactions to stress is to feel tired. So rest. You need to be protecting your physical health as much as your mental health.
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  • Exercise. It’s proven that even light-moderate exercise can benefit those struggling with mental health. So don’t worry, we’re not saying you have to go out and run a marathon here. Getting outside and going for a walk, even just a short one, can help clear your head and elevate your mood. Indeed getting out into nature has been proven to assist those struggling with mental health issues (it is the best medicine for me when I’m feeling low). Take yourself to the park or even your garden, stop and listen to the bird’s sing.
  • Mindfulness is one of the main treatments for mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Despite what some people may think, it works. Mindfulness is an integrative, mind-body based approach that can help people manage thoughts and feelings. The aim is to pay attention to the present moment and use techniques that draw on mediation, breathing and yoga. There are some fantastic mindfulness apps such as Calm or Headspace. 
  • Stay connected. Our friends and families can help us through those difficult times. A phone call or text to a loved one can really improve one another’s day.
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I love yoga and meditation, just not in my aisle or galley!
  • Gossip, rumours and speculation can REALLY fuel anxiety, and one of the worst places for rumour and speculation is social media. While we all love scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, looking at other people’s “perfect” lives, it can have a real detrimental effect on our mental health. So limit your time on social media (apart from Confessions of a Trolley Dolly and other fabulous aviation social media pages). Step away from the phone or tablet if you’re feeling worked up.
  • Limit your time watching or reading the news. On the whole, it’s massively full of doom and gloom. Obsessively scrolling through news stories that are often full of misinformation and scaremongering will do you no good.
  • Eat well. What we consume is so important both for our physical and mental health. Evidence has found that eating correctly can help us maintain a balanced mood and feelings of well being. Focus on your five-a-day, eating plenty of fruits and veg. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, as well as nuts, seeds and legumes, such as beans and lentils, are also excellent brain foods. Dark green leafy vegetables, in particular, are brain protective. 
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Eating healthy is a great way to maintain both your physical and your mental health.
  • Distract yourself. Pick up a book, a magazine. Put on your favourite boxset or feel-good movie. Listen to your favourite music. You can also try out some of the brilliant and free NHS Mental Wellbeing Guides.
  • There’s no rush to any of this, so don’t try and do everything at once. Take small steps, set small targets that you can easily achieve, change one thing at a time, and then build on it. 

Finally just remember that you are no alone. So many people are struggling every day, and you really do not have to suffer in silence.

Do not see mental health issues as weakness or a poor reflection on yourself.

It REALLY is ok not to be ok!

Here are some useful numbers and websites to use if you need some advice or a friendly ear:

Samaritans 116 123

Anxiety UK 03444 775 774

Mind – ‘for better mental health’


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© by Dan Air.

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