How pilots deal with stress can teach us all something about the importance of self-care.
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Cigna 2017

What’s more deadly for a pilot: high cholesterol or dangerous airspeeds?

All images via iStock.

You probably thought the answer was the latter, right? After all, that sounds right.


But according to an official Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) health information handout provided to pilots, pilots are actually far more likely to die from the complications of high cholesterol, such as a stroke or heart attack, than dangerous airspeeds while flying.

In our minds, pilots seem larger than life, but they need to be just as aware — if not more so — about their health as we do.

Pilots have an incredibly stressful job — after all, it's their responsibility to get everyone on the plane safely to their destination.

And they have to do that while also coping with irregular, around-the-clock schedules, jet lag, and large amounts of time away from home and loved ones.

With all that pressure and responsibility, it is crucial that pilots develop good habits for taking care of their health. Otherwise they can develop some severe health issues that can put them — and everyone on board — at risk.

This means that preventive health care is incredibly important for pilots. So why not ask them to share some health care tips?

All pilots have to pass routine FAA mandated medical requirements where doctors check things like their heart health, blood pressure, vision, and hearing — any of which could ultimately cost pilots their license because issues in these areas could hinder a pilot's ability to do their job or could endanger passengers' safety.

Taking control of their diet, exercise, stress levels, and sleep are the best ways for pilots (and all of us!) to stay healthy.

Check out these helpful tips on preventive care and self-care from some seasoned pilots.

One of the most important things is to make a plan ahead of time for when to eat, sleep, exercise, or even just relax on a trip.

Because their schedules change so often from day to day, one of the only ways pilots can make sure to remember to take care of themselves is to actually schedule everything, says John Scully, a retired pilot who flew for almost 40 years and the father of one of our staff writers. That way, they are always prioritizing health and well-being — even when things get busy.

And while most of our schedules are probably nowhere near as hectic as a pilot's is, making a plan for your day is a great way to make sure you don't forget to schedule some "you time."

If you're always eating on the go, try to opt for something on the healthier side.

While some airlines — depending on the length of the flight — provide crew members with meals, others do not provide any meals at all for the pilots. According to Mike Scully, a first officer with a major U.S.-based airline (and John's son), if they don't eat before they fly (or bring something on the plane), Mike says, all they have are snacks like pretzels or peanuts. And hotel and airport food, while usually available, isn't always the healthiest or most nutritious, but sometimes it's all pilots have time to grab.

"I'll do everything that I can when I am on the go to not eat at a chain restaurant or a hotel," says Mike. And when he has to grab airport food, he tries to get things like salads, sandwiches, or fruit — things that are healthier, easy to carry on the plane, and that taste good eaten cold.

And, he says, when home from a trip, he tries to offset any unhealthy habits. "I personally like to cook. I try, once or twice while I am home, to cook, and when I do, I try to cook healthy."

Remove "avoidable stress" whenever possible.

Because piloting is, by its very nature, stressful, it becomes tremendously important to make other things less so. This means avoiding things that they know will be upsetting when pilots know they have to sleep or take care of themselves before a flight.

"The worst thing that I can do is look at my phone right before I need to go to sleep," says Mike. Upsetting news or unopened emails have the potential of worrying or waking a person in the middle of the night.

Removing "avoidable stress" also means finding ways to avoid easy mistakes and put your mind at ease.  And for that, organization is key.

"I miss routine, so when I’m home or not flying, I like to have routine," Mike explains. "So I try to make sure that even though I am in different countries or different hotels, everything is very standard."

For example, he tries to pack his suitcase in the exact same way for every trip so when he needs something — say, a pair of sunglasses — he knows exactly where to look.  And when he arrives at his hotel room, he tries to unpack the same way every night and repack his bag in the same way so that nothing gets lost. "I don’t want to be losing phone chargers every week at hotels," he says.

And after working, it's important to find a way to relax and exercise.

"Some of my friends, the first thing that they do is plan a time to go to the gym," says Mike. "I carry clothes with me and I go down sometimes, but what I really like to do on the road is walk. If I'm in a safe part of a city, I'll walk, and it's nice to see things and try things, like if I'm in Lima, I'll try Peruvian food and just walk around the city."

A view of the city of Lima, Peru.

For him, walking accomplishes two things at once — exercise and relaxation — so he’s more likely to actually do both. (No excuses!)

Plus as little as 30 minutes spent walking outside has been shown to reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure.

Remember that your loved ones are there to help.

Having a supportive family is also a great stress-reliever because they are there to offer support when you need it.  "A call home always helped me," says John. "And they would generally know that it was best to wait to tell me about the plumbing problem at home — or something else — until after the last leg of the trip."

Of course, most of us are not airline pilots, and we might not have such unpredictable work schedules, but we can all learn something from their self-care routines.

The most important thing — whether you work around the clock, have a sedentary desk job, or just feel a lot of stress in your day-to-day life — is to remember to take time for yourself and your health in all the business.

And while most of us don’t have routine FAA mandated medical requirements to remind us to go to the doctor, it is still important that we schedule a checkup with our doctor so that we know our health numbers — cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and blood sugar — and so that we can take control of our health before a problem develops.

Because if pilot routines show us anything, it's that caring for your health and your well-being isn't selfish: It's crucial if you want to be able to be there for those who are depending on you.

Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.

This was written by staff writer Simone Scully and the pilots featured are her father and brother.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...in the most delightful way.

There are certain songs from kids' movies that most of us can sing along to, but we often don't know how they originated. Now we have a timely insight into one such song—"A Spoonful of Sugar" from "Mary Poppins."

It's common for parents to try all kinds of tricks to get kids to take medications they don't want to take, but the inspiration for "A Spoonful of Sugar" was much more specific. Jeffrey Sherman, the son and nephew of the Sherman Brothers—the musical duo responsible not just for "Mary Poppins," but a host of Disney films including "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," "The Jungle Book," "The Aristocats," as well as the song "It's a Small World After All"—told the story of how "A Spoonful of Sugar" came about on Facebook.

He wrote:

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Courtesy of Macy's

Brantley and his snowman

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"Would you like to build a snowman?" If you asked five-year-old Brantley from Texas this question, the answer would be a resounding "Yes!" While it may sound like a simple dream, since Texas doesn't usually see much snow, it seemed like a lofty one for him, even more so because Brantley has a congenital heart disease.

On Dec. 11, 2019, however, the real Macy's Santa and his two elves teamed up with Make-A-Wish to surprise Brantley and his family on his way to Colorado where there was plenty of snow for him to build his very own snowman, fulfilling his wish as part of the Macy's Believe campaign. After a joy-filled plane ride where every passenger got gift bags from Macy's, the family arrived in Breckenridge, Colorado where Santa and his elves helped Brantley build a snowman.

Brantley, Brantley's mom, and Santa marveling at their snowmanAll photos courtesy of Macy's

Brantley, who according to his mom had never actually seen snow, was blown away by the experience.

"Well, I had to build a snowman because snowmen are my favorite," Brantley said in an interview with Summit Daily. "All of it was my favorite part."

This is just one example of the more than 330,000 wishes the nonprofit Make-A-Wish have fulfilled to bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses since its founding 40 years ago. Even though many of the children that Make-A-Wish grants wishes for manage or overcome their illnesses, they often face months, if not years of doctor's visits, hospital stays and uncomfortable treatments. The nonprofit helps these children and their families replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy and anxiety with hope.

It's hardly an outlandish notion — research shows that a wish come true can help increase these children's resiliency and improve their quality of life. Brantley is a prime example.

"This couldn't have come at a better time because we see all the hardships that we went through last year," Brantley's mom Brandi told Summit Daily.

Brantley playing with snowballs

Now more than ever, kids with critical illnesses need hope. Since they're particularly vulnerable to disease, they and their families have had to isolate even more during the pandemic and avoid the people they love most and many of the activities that recharge them. That's why Make-A-Wish is doing everything it can to fulfill wishes in spite of the unprecedented obstacles.

That's where you come in. Macy's has raised over $132 million for Make-A-Wish, and helped grant more than 15,500 wishes since their partnership began in 2003, but they couldn't have done that without the support of everyday people. The crux of that support comes from Macy's Believe Campaign — the longstanding holiday fundraising effort where for every letter to Santa that's written online at Macys.com or dropped off safely at the red Believe mailbox at their stores, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. New this year, National Believe Day will be expanded to National Believe Week and will provide customers the opportunity to double their donations ($2 per letter, up to an additional $1 million) for a full week from Sunday, Nov. 29 through Saturday, Dec. 5.

There are more ways to support Make-A-Wish besides letter-writing too. If you purchase a $4 Believe bracelet, $2 of each bracelet will be donated to Make-A-Wish through Dec. 31. And for families who are all about the holiday PJs, on Giving Tuesday (Dec. 1), 20 percent of the purchase price of select family pajamas will benefit Make-A-Wish.

Elizabeth living out her wish of being a fashion designer

Additionally, this year's campaign features 6-year-old Elizabeth, a Make-A-Wish child diagnosed with leukemia, whose wish to design a dress recently came true. Thanks to the style experts at Macy's Fashion Office and I.N.C. International Concepts, only at Macy's, Elizabeth had the opportunity to design a colorful floral maxi dress. Elizabeth's exclusive design is now available online at Macys.com and in select Macy's stores. In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, 20 percent of the purchase price of Elizabeth's dress (through Dec. 31) will benefit Make-A-Wish.You can also donate directly to Make-A-Wish via Macy's website.

This holiday season may be a tough one this year, but you can bring joy to children fighting critical illnesses by delivering hope for their wishes to come true.

via Twins Trust / Twitter

Twins born with separate fathers are rare in the human population. Although there isn't much known about heteropaternal superfecundation — as it's known in the scientific community — a study published in The Guardian, says about one in every 400 sets of fraternal twins has different fathers.

Simon and Graeme Berney-Edwards, a gay married couple, from London, England both wanted to be the biological father of their first child.

"We couldn't decide on who would be the biological father," Simon told The Daily Mail. "Graeme said it should be me, but I said that he had just as much right as I did."

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Blackface has a long and shameful history in this country. We think—we hope—after numerous call-outs and emotional explanations, Americans get the message: blackface is not okay. But that isn't the case, as many were re-made painfully aware, when Dr. Regina N. Bradley, a professor and critically acclaimed writer, shared the shocking auditory version of her new essay, "Da Art of Speculatin'", on Twitter.

Due to outrageous oversight, Fireside—a progressively minded short-story magazine who claim, in their About page, to resist "the global rise of fascism and far-right populism"—hired a young, white male voice actor to read and record Bradley's essay—an essay that identifies its writer, in its very first line, as a "southern Black woman who stands in the long shadow of the Civil Rights Movement."

According to the Washington Post, Rineer spoke in an accent that listeners interpreted as something that would appear in minstrel show, an American form of entertainment developed in the early 19th century, in which white people lampooned Black people, often portraying them as dim-witted and buffoonish, with stock characters including the dandy, the slave, and the 'mammy.' It's incredibly, incredibly offensive. So it's no wonder that, upon hearing the clip, a horrified Bradley fired off an outraged tweet, asking Fireside and Rineer if they honestly thought this is what she sounded like.



How could something so offensive have been approved, one wonders, especially in a year defined by reckoning with racial injustice? For the answer, look to Pablo Defendini, the publisher and editor for Fireside, who claimed, "nothing insidious in his decision… he just didn't listen to the recording before posting it."

"The blame for this rests squarely with me, as the person who hires out and manages the audio production process at Fireside," Defendini said in a statement. "In the interest of remaining a lean operation, I've been hiring one narrator to record the audio for a whole issue's worth of Fireside Quarterly, and I don't normally break out specific stories or essays for narrating by particular individuals."

"My personal neglect allowed racist violence to be perpetrated on a Black author, which makes me not just complicit in anti-Black racism, but racist as well."

As for Rineer, he regrets not breaking a contract rule and contacting Bradley directly about her work. His gut instinct told him not to proceed—that he was the wrong person for the job. Still, upon expressing his doubts to Fireside, he was ignored, and so proceeded with the recording—he'd already signed the contract.

"I made the mistake of reading Dr. Bradley's work and assuming an accent that was not representative of her voice," he said. "I had tried to find a different narrator who would be a suitable representative in my network and via public forums, to no avail, in the week-long time frame I had."

As for Bradley, Defendini's apology isn't cutting it. "Not listening" isn't an excuse—it's deepening the wound. Black Women have been "not listened" to since the dawn of this nation's founding.

"I am angry," she wrote. "Seething from centuries of silenced Black women angry."