It's Time to Decelerate!
I, too, want to express my gratitude to the pilots and flight crews who deliver us safely to our destinations. We place our lives in your hands on a regular basis and that is a big responsibility! And with responsibility often comes STRESS!!!
When the body encounters acute stress, such as that Captain Sullenberger experienced, stress hormones are released which stimulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism to provide the quick energy needed for a "fight or flight" response. This raises blood pressure, quickens respiration and tenses muscles, allowing us to react quickly and efficiently in the situation.
But, what happens when we are under constant stress? Well, our bodies respond with the release of hormones, including cortisol. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can stimulate appetite, especially for high calorie foods. This results in increased fat storage, especially in the abdominal region (called visceral fat). It can also decrease metabolism, meaning your body does not burn as many calories - more fat storage results. Insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease, poor sleep quality and impaired immunity are also more likely to occur.
Each of these causes its own set of problems with their own possible dietary interventions, which we can go into at another time. For now, don't spend those sleepless nights ordering cortisol-blocking supplements from some infomercial on TV - they don't work! The key is to incorporate stress management techniques into your lifestyle.
When possible, spend 20-30 minutes each day in some kind of relaxing activity (a hot bath, meditation, yoga, music, reading, etc). If you can't get in 20 minutes, at least take a few moments to close your eyes and do some deep breathing (of course, you will want to be parked safely at the gate before you do this!). Exercise helps rid the body of cortisol, enhances sleep, and releases endorphins. Try to incorporate movement daily and weight lifting twice/week to minimize abdominal fat gain.
While travelling (especially when that is your JOB!) can make self-care, like mindfulness, sleep and relaxation challenging - it is imperative to your good health. But, don't stress over the stress-reduction!! Take a deep breath and give thanks that you're not landing in the Hudson River right now!