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HomeHealth & FitnessHow stress can turn deadly for pilots

How stress can turn deadly for pilots

(STUDENTS PACKAGE) What goes wrong when a student’s response to stress is suicide. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Aug 21 : Unaddressed stress can impact both mental and physical health, said health experts here on Monday amid the recent news of the chilling deaths of three pilots due to sudden cardiac arrest.

In the last week, two Indian pilots died 24 hours apart. An IndiGo captain died after collapsing at a boarding gate in Nagpur and a senior pilot with Qatar Airways, flying from Delhi to Doha as a passenger, fell ill on board and died. Earlier, a pilot on LATAM Airlines flying from Florida to Santiago, carrying 271 people on board, died after collapsing in the bathroom.

“The passing of these pilots serves as a poignant call to action. Let us heed this call by prioritising our health, not merely for our sake but for the promise of a future unburdened by preventable heart ailments. These incidents demand urgent attention to reform our habits and attitudes towards health. It is imperative that we embrace holistic well-being, integrating physical activity, balanced nutrition, and stress management into our daily lives,” Dr. Vikas Chopra, Sr. Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Primus Super Speciality Hospital, told IANS.

“Unaddressed stress is becoming a significant aspect of our life, especially pilots, which is impacting both mental and physical health. Nature of work, pressures that come along with work, family, finances, managing multiple roles or inability to disengage from various demands of one’s life, stress can be felt simmering within all that one is doing,” added Mimansa Singh Tanwar, Clinical Psychologist, Fortis National Mental Health Programme.

In a recent study published in the Indian Heart journal, doctors from Delhi’s GB Pant hospital showed that among patients admitted with heart attack, a majority (92 per cent) had, especially those young, had high stress levels.

“The relentless pursuit of professional goals, combined with neglecting self-care, is exacting a toll on cardiovascular health, a toll we can no longer afford to ignore,” Dr Chopra said.

Tanwar said that “stress can impact us at an emotional, behavioural, physiological and performance level”.

At an emotional level, a stressful person can experience anxiety, irritability, sadness, nervousness, worrisome negative thoughts leading to social withdrawal, staying isolated, seeing an increase in conflicts and lack of interest in day-to-day activities, she explained.

At the physiological level, the symptoms can be increased fatigue, changes in sleep and appetite, ache and pains or decrease. There can also be an overall decline in the performance with more errors and lack of efficiency and productivity.

In addition to stress, Dr Chopra also blamed sedentary routines, and dietary imbalances. He recommended engaging in regular exercise, adopting heart-healthy diets, and cultivating mindfulness can contribute to mitigating these risks and preventing potential tragedies.

“The recent incidents involving the untimely deaths of pilots serve as sombre reminders of a larger concern that transcends the aviation sector– the alarming rise of heart attacks among the younger generation. These tragic events underscore the pressing need to address the often overlooked health risks that can affect even those in the prime of their lives,” he said.

Tanwar called out organisations to make better mental health at the workplace a priority.

“Sensitisation and awareness on mental health, creating a safe space where one doesn’t feel judged to talk about it and taking requisite steps to address mental health concerns should be inculcated as part of psychological well-being within the organisations. Empathy, compassion and support need to be the pillars of our being when we are providing help to someone in distress.”

She said it is important to recognise the signs of stress and take necessary measures to address it rather than ignore or brush it aside.

“Short breaks in between work is a necessity. It allows you to refresh yourself. A light moment with your colleagues, taking a walk, just sitting with your eyes closed for a short while or anything else that can help you. I call them “pockets of mindfulness”. We all can take out 10-15 min of short pockets to just connect with self and relax in the moment.

“At the end of the day unwind, spend time with family or friends or engage in any hobby or interest of yours that allows you to disengage from your work,” the expert noted.

However, if one feels that stress is becoming overwhelming, “do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health expert”, Tanwar said.

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