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Air Transportation Company Employees’ Mental Problems

Causes of Stress

The professional activity of the employees of the air transportation organisation service assumes a high information load, responsibility for the comfort, well-being, and life of a large number of people, and is associated with intensive communication, including the resolution of conflict situations. According to Bor and Hubbard (2006), this professional activity takes place in conditions of relatively high tension, which causes the development of stress and requires significant efforts from employees to overcome it.

One of the groups of stress that I have to face is mental factors. First of all, it is nervous and emotional tension, multifunctionality and a heterogeneous combination of professional roles, instability of the work, and rest regime (Chen & Chen, 2012). In addition, the factors of stress can be the heterogeneity of the contingent of air passengers with which I have to interact, which is sometimes complicated. According to Tsaur et al. (2020), “cabin crew must blend their personalities to accommodate the teamwork, in order to ensure efficient operation of the team and meet passengers’ needs” (p. 1). Moreover, there are such causes of stress as publicity, accessibility, and openness to a large number of people at the same time, crowding in a limited enclosed space of an aircraft (Chen & Chen, 2014). In addition, although the work of flight attendants is associated with frequent flights, the fear of dying from an airplane crash still causes stress.

On the other hand, Kelleher and McGilloway (2005) note that there are also physical stress factors that can affect the overall state of health. One of the most severe stress factors is changes in barometric pressure in the cabins during takeoff and landing of the aircraft. This causes various health problems, which also reflects on the level of stress. Similarly, Omholt et al. (2016) point out that there are such factors as the low partial pressure of oxygen, exposure to radiation, time zone change, vibrations of resonant frequencies, noise, and low air humidity. It is also essential to note that there are problems with the increased content of harmful chemicals in the air, which affect the psychological state.

In contrast, Karasek et al. (1998) identify the difference between the types of stress. Both excess and lack of stress lead to a decrease in the flight attendant’s working capacity, emotional state deterioration, and mood or behaviour changes. There is no room for professional development and improvement, leading to a lack of stress (Chen & Chen, 2014). Nevertheless, if this situation lasts for a long time, then there is a high probability of emotional and behavioural symptoms similar to those that usually occur with extreme overstrain and burnout.

The increase in the number of flights and the requirements of companies to meet customers’ expectations with high-quality service in a competitive environment create additional pressure on flight attendants. This also has an impact on me since I have to work longer and take on additional responsibilities without receiving sufficient instructions on how to do the work. This provokes additional stress due to an increase in the potential conflict of roles and the need for additional resources to solve these problems.

Consequences

Professional burnout is a long-term state of highly motivated people experiencing significant difficulties in personal self-realisation through the profession. It is a syndrome, the three-dimensional construct of which includes, according to Leka and Jain (2010), emotional exhaustion, professional cynicism, and reduction of professional achievements, which manifest themselves consistently, depending on specific conditions, in various combinations. Similarly, Reis et al. (2015) note that in particularly unfavourable conditions of the professional environment, a simultaneous, avalanche-like manifestation of all the components of this condition could be observed.

According to Maslach and Leiter (2005), the most serious consequence can be a depressive state regarding your profession. Being in a situation when something is not going according to the regulations (minor malfunctions, leaving the schedule for reasons beyond your control, fatigue) causes a feeling of discomfort, cognitive dissonance. All this is gradually degenerating into the second element of the classic burnout construct — reducing professional achievements (Karasek et al., 1998). This is manifested in the fact that self-confidence and the quality of work performance decrease. All this leads to a loss of interest in the professional field and a loss of competitiveness as a specialist.

The result is emotional exhaustion, which leads to feelings of constant emotional tension. Particularly severe cases can lead to emotional breakdowns. In aviation, there are increased safety requirements. Fatigue, in combination with symptoms of burnout, leads to an increase in reaction time when performing critical tasks and a decrease in the reliability of activities in general (Maslach and Leiter, 2005). This can lead to an increased risk to safety or even to harmful consequences.

To understand the essence of burnout, it is essential to conclude that it is a mental state, which means that it has the property of variability (Reis et al., 2014). This is a continuum in which the attribute changes, has extreme negative and positive values. Burnout occurs in the event of loss or threat of loss of resources and the inability to gain valuable experience expected in the workplace.

In contrast, Fevre et al. (2006) state that as a kind of socio-psychological, organisational stress factors arise due to the inability and unwillingness to link the market requirements, society, and the external environment with the needs and capabilities of personnel. As a result, there is a specific mental state of burnout, a professional burnout syndrome, a harbinger of loss of mental and physical health, addictive behaviour, and retirement from the profession. Therefore, in order to remain a valuable human resource, it is necessary to be able to cope with such difficulties (Maslach and Leiter, 2005). Even if it seems that this profession is not suitable or seems complicated, it can all be just the consequences of burnout. However, this is not always the reality. Thus, coping with the emerging stress, there are more opportunities for professional growth and development.

Coping

The first step in reducing anxiety at work is to take care of yourself and create well-being. I try to get enough sleep, monitor my health, eat quality food, and also exercise. In addition, I have hobbies and social activities outside of work. However, it is not enough to organise life qualitatively to deal with burnout at work. It is also necessary to pay attention to how the work process and communication with colleagues are going (Moenkemeyer et al., 2012). One of the most important principles that need to be done is the establishment of good working relations.

According to Hartmann et al. (2020), an essential aspect of overcoming a state of stress or not allowing it at all is planning work activities. Before planning anything, it is vital to set an end goal for yourself. In addition, it is necessary to be able to analyse forces and resources. Always define a clear time frame for completing any task. Similarly, (Moenkemeyer et al. (2012) noted that it is necessary to divide it into small stages and give a specific time for each of them.

Additionally, a very effective way to overcome stress and burnout is the ability to separate the work from the personal (Fevre et al., 2006). This approach is manifested primarily in the ability to rest properly. To avoid stress in such situations, it is imperative to be able to switch. It is crucial to relax, play sports, do something different, and devote time to family or friends. Thus, a person who knows how to relax fully knows how to work effectively. In addition to the specified Fevre method, Maslach and Leiter (2005) also noted that one of the essential points is the ability to recognise signs of stress. Perhaps many people do not even realise that they are experiencing depression.

The damage caused by an emotional hurricane occurs regardless of whether it is possible to understand that something is happening or not. There are several signs that stress is already affecting the employee. It can be a feeling of anxiety, irritation, or depression (Omholt et al., 2017). Moreover, a feeling of apathy or disinterest in the profession is also a sign of burnout. However, this method is quite challenging to learn, so this strategy is not effective enough. This is because problems are brought up imperceptibly, and sometimes there is no opportunity to think about what happened.

One of the most effective strategies that helped me cope with stress and burnout is the ability to control my thoughts and emotions. According to Fevre et al. (2006), the concentration of attention, self-control, conscious choice of actions, and cognitive reassessment are indispensable helpers in the fight against stress. One of the methods is the technique of meditation-concentration. It is necessary to concentrate all attention on a specific object in the field of view or an invented image. During meditation, extraneous thoughts are not allowed. It is much easier for people who regularly practise meditation to keep track of their thoughts and emotions than those who have never done it.

Another critical point is the realisation that many problems do not depend on us. When working as a flight attendant, I constantly have to face such difficulties as noise, pressure, as well as the behaviour of a specific category of passengers, which can interfere with the performance of tasks (Chen & Chen, 2012). Accepting the thought that many difficulties do not depend on us helps to focus on completing tasks with a sound mind, without resorting to conflicts or disputes.

I have tested such a mobile application as MindShift CBT. This app is a personal pocket psychotherapist. With the help of a well-thought-out questionnaire, the program collects various data that it will later operate on to suggest what to do in stressful situations. For example, switch your attention, think about pleasant memories, set yourself a specific goal, work on your breathing. In addition, the application has a built-in electronic diary so that all information about mental balance is stored in one place. Indeed, the use of mobile applications to deal with stress cannot be compared with going to a psychologist or working out a problem.

However, through this application, I managed to systematise the observation of my mental state. It is ideal for instilling habits that help to assess the current state of mind. Also, MindShift CBT helps contain many tips and ways to act when someone is faced with a mental problem. It is difficult to remember any practical way to deal with the difficulty in a stressful situation. Thus, we can conclude that there are many ways to deal with stress and burnout. Although they are challenging to learn, there are many ways to master different methods, such as mobile applications.

References

Bor, R., & Hubbard, T. (2006). Aviation mental health: Psychological implications for air transportation. Routledge.

Chen, C., & Chen, S. (2012). Burnout and work engagement among cabin crew: Antecedents and consequences. The International Journal of Aviation Psychology, 22(1), 41-58. Web.

Chen, C., & Chen, S. (2014). Investigating the effects of job demands and job resources on cabin crew safety behaviors. Tourism Management, 41, 45-52. Web.

Fevre, M. L., Kolt, G. S., & Matheny, J. (2006). Eustress, distress and their interpretation in primary and secondary occupational stress management interventions: which way first?. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21(6), 547-565. Web.

Hartmann, S., Weiss, M., Newman, A., & Hoegl, M. (2020). Resilience in the workplace: A multilevel review and synthesis. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 69(3), 913-959. Web.

Karasek, R., Brisson, C., Kawakami, N., Houtman, I., Bongers, P., & Amick, B. (1998). The Job Content Questionnaire (JCQ): An instrument for internationally comparative assessments of psychosocial job characteristics. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 3(4), 322-355. Web.

Kelleher, C., & McGilloway, S. (2005). Survey finds high levels of work-related stress among flight attendants. Cabin Crew Safety, 40(6), 1-6.

Leka, S., & Jain, A. (2010). Health impact of psychosocial hazards at work: An overview. World Health Organization Press.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2005). Reversing burnout: How to rekindle your passion for your work. Stanford Social Innovation Review, 43-49.

Moenkemeyer, G., Hoegl, M., & Weiss, M. (2012). Innovator resilience potential: A process perspective of individual resilience as influenced by innovation project termination. Human Relations, 65(5), 627-655. Web.

Omholt, M. L., Tveito, T. H., & Ihlebaek, C. (2017). Subjective health complaints, work-related stress and self-efficacy in Norwegian aircrew. Occupational Medicine, 67, 135-142. Web.

Reis, D., Xanthopoulou, D., & Tsaousis, I. (2014). Measuring job and academic burnout with the Oldenburg Burnout Inventory (OLBI): Factorial invariance across samples and countries. Burnout Research, 2, 8-18. Web.

Tsaur S., Hsu, F., & Kung, L. (2020). Hassles of cabin crew: An exploratory study. Journal of Air Transport Management, 85, 1-11.

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