Many of us strive to live a healthier lifestyle and the new year is the perfect time to make some changes in an attempt to improve our health – to get fit not fat.
If you are contemplating a health kick, you could be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed. We’ve heard it all before – do yoga, go running, join a gym, lift weights, take up the latest fad diet, ditch the booze, reduce your stress. It is easy to feel like your life needs to be overhauled in order to be a healthy, happy human being.
“I don’t mean to brag but….. I finished my 14-day diet in 3 hours and 12 minutes”
Trouble is, as cabin crew it’s really tough to be truly healthy. Endlessly processed crew food, copious amounts of alcohol, nights away from home, little or no sleep, long working hours, filthy aeroplanes and awkward passengers all combine to have a massive effect on our wellbeing.
So here at Confessions of a Trolley Dolly we’ve put together a number of simple ‘Health Hacks’ designed specifically for crew, by crew, to help you get on track to a happier, healthier you.
Get Some ZZZZZZ’s
Sleep. What’s that I hear many of you cry? Well it’s actually one of the most important tools in staying healthy. But for us trolley dollies it’s something that doesn’t always come easy. Time away from home in hotel beds, crossing numerous time-zones and dealing with the dreaded jet-lag all combine to make sleep incredibly illusive for some.
Many crew resort to using sleeping pills to try and get some slumber when they can. Some of us may turn to alcohol, prescription sedatives, or other more illicit sedatives. Constantly being sleep-deprived can lead many to self-medicate.
It may seem obvious, but we should all aim to get enough shut-eye (seven to nine hours a night for most healthy adults). Even being mildly sleep deprived (five hours a night) can affect a range of cognitive functions, including decision making, a very important part of our role onboard an aircraft.
There’s plenty of hacks to help us get a better night’s sleep, from cutting out the caffeine and sugar a few hours before bed, to trying to have as consistent a bed time as possible when you are not flying.
TOP TIP – Stop using those electronic devices well before bedtime or at least put on a filter that blocks the blue light in them.
Try a pre-bed shower. So you’ve just finished a late night flight, you’re exhausted and you really cannot be bothered getting a shower. Actually, it might just help. First of all you want to wash off that ‘Eau du Boeing/Airbus’, as well as all those nasty germs that will have accumulated on your body. The warm water will dilate blood vessels, relax muscles and remove horrible toxins from the skin.
Try some meditation – one of my favourites. Lie down on your bed and take a few deep breaths. Then, starting with your toes, visualise and focus on each part of your body working your way up feet, ankles, calves, knees, thighs, hips and so on….by the time you reach your naughty bits you should be fast asleep.
Now hopefully, when you wake up next morning you’ll be feeling a little more refreshed. But whatever you do – DO NOT PRESS SNOOZE – Believe it or not, that extra 9 minutes of fake shuteye does more harm than good. Not only are you affecting your natural circadian sleep rhythms, but hitting snooze tricks your body in to going back in to a deep sleep. Just get up.
TOP TIP – Try putting your phone on the other side of the room before bed, it will stop you from having a sneaky peak at Confessions of a Trolley Dolly’s Facebook before bed and will also force you to get out of bed in the morning and instead of hitting snooze.
Ditch The Crew Food And Eat Healthy
Being stuck in a metal tube all day, poor quality over-processed aeroplane food, a bar full of crisps and chocolate and hotel room service, eating healthy is tough. But what goes in to your body is one of the most crucial ways of remaining healthy.
TOP TIP – Start your day with a nice glass of warm water and lemon juice. It cleanses your palate, helps flush out your kidneys and liver and removes toxins.
Try slowing down when you eat – easier said than done of course when your shovelling down some left-overs from first class in between services. But eating too quickly is really bad for your digestive system. Not only that, but it takes about 20 minutes after you start eating for your brain to realise you’re no longer hungry – the more you eat, the more weight you gain.
“Some days you eat salads and go to the gym. Some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance”
Ditch the left-overs. Don’t do a running buffet with the remaining economy meals, leave the entree from business and for gods sake step away from that desert that wasn’t eaten in first.
If you really do want to pick, then pick at the healthy stuff (boring I know, but every little helps). Try the fruit or cheese platters, ditch the bread roll and potatoes and munch on the meat and veggies instead.
TOP TIP – Try adding cinnamon to your coffee instead of sugar. Not only will it help you cut back on sugar it will also lower cholesterol, improve brain function and is FULL of antioxidants.
We’ve all heard about getting our five portions of fruit and veg a day. But it’s not only quantity we should be striving for, but also diversity. According to research we should aim for at least 30 different plant-based foods per week, as plant-based diversity is thought to have a key role in helping the bacteria in our stomachs, which in turn has a profound role in our health. Allergies, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson’s, and even depression have all been linked to the bacteria in our gut.
Get Fit Not Fat
Exercise is key to a healthy life, both physically and mentally. But let’s be honest, it’s the last thing we want to be doing after being on our feet all day.
Indeed, many would say that the amount of walking we already do in our jobs – to the crew room, to the aircraft, up and down those aisles every day, to the hotel bar – would be more than enough exercise.
Truth is it – probably isn’t. Don’t panic though, you don’t have to go too crazy….
Try taking the stairs instead of the lift for a mini-cardio work out, although don’t be breaking your back carrying your crew luggage. If it’s heavy use the lift.
Park further away from the crew bus stop or terminal in the staff car park, instantly adding a few extra steps to your daily count.
TOP TIP – “Exercise in the morning before your brain figures out what you’re doing”
If you’re on a night-stop ask the hotel reception to point you in the direction of the nearest park. Getting some fresh air in to your lungs, feeling the grass under your feet and enjoying some sunlight packed with vitamin D is the perfect pick me up after a long flight. Just make sure you apply plenty of suncream! Just 10 minutes of brisk walking will boost your energy, clears your mind and lifts your mood.
Now I know we hate passengers that come and do their stretching in our galley. But gentle stretches can be done anywhere. Aim to stretch at least twice a week to loosen up tight spots and make moving easier.
There are literally hundreds of amazing health apps available for you to download to your mobile devices, helping you to get active wherever you are in the world and some great ones offered by the NHS in the UK can be found here.
Focus On The Mind
It is very easy for us to focus only on our physical health and forget about our mental well-being. But just like our bodies, our mind needs exercise too.
Balancing our professional and private lives, time away from home and loved ones, stresses from management and even other colleagues and of course having to deal with the wonderful general public on a daily basis all combine to make depression and anxiety extremely common in the cabin crew world.
We can start improving our minds by building self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to recognise and understand your moods, emotions and drives, and building it can play a crucial role in improving mental and physical wellbeing over time. By understanding your feelings, motivations and behaviours in more depth, you can begin to act more consciously in order to make better choices for yourself. There are many ways to do this including journaling, meditating, practicing mindfulness or simply making time for self-reflection after certain activities or at the end of the day. Better understanding ourselves allows us to play to our strengths and build on our weaknesses, thereby spurring us on to be our best self.
TOP TIP – Smile more often. It really does help lift your mood. Of course, in our job this is something we do naturally, although some times of course through gritted teeth.
As Elsa sung ‘Let It Go’….. I know, easier said than done when a passenger is screaming at you for something that you have literally no control over and we all know how passengers love to take out their frustrations on us. Deep breaths, count to ten and take yourself out of the situation. Being cabin crew is all about being part of a team, so if said passenger isn’t listening to you, ask someone to step in and take-over. Then take yourself to the galley or toilet and have a good silent scream. It really does help!
Start a journal. The good stuff in our job usually out-weighs the bad so write it down. According to psychologists, at the end of the day you should take a few minutes to write down three good things that have happened to you and how they made you feel. You end your day feeling positive, no matter what else happened.
We often spend long periods of time away from home and our loved ones and this can have a great impact on our mental health. So why not bring a little bit of home with you? If you can, bring a loved one with you on a trip. Or if that’s not possible try packing your own pillowcase or cushion. Bring a teddy bear, a scented candle, anything to bring some home comforts to your hotel.
But the biggest thing to remember is if you’re struggling then please talk to someone. A colleague, a friend, your partner, a family member or someone from one of the many helplines we’ve listed below. You are not alone!
Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15 to 35.
Phone: 0800 58 58 58 (daily, 5pm to midnight)
Men’s Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am to 10pm)
Support for people with OCD. Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 5pm)
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0845 120 3778 (Mon to Fri, 9am to 5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon to Fri,10am to 5pm & 7 to 10pm. Weekends 2 to 5pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30 to 10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Mon to Fri, 9.30am to 4pm)
Phone: 0845 769 7555 (24-hour helpline)
Phone: 0300 999 1212 (daily 10am to midnight)
The UK’s largest provider of relationship support.
In the UK, the NHS has set up ‘Every Mind Matters’ a fantastic online tool to assist those suffering with mental health issues – if you’re having difficulties check it out.
And there we have it, a few simple hints and tips to get you feeling fit and healthy. Best of luck to anyone who is starting a health kick. Please let us know how you’re getting on and if you have any hacks of your own you’d like to add then pop them in the comments below.
© confessionsofatrolleydolly.com by Dan Air.