ALL IT TAKES IS COURAGE
Stressed about Stress?
√0600 – Flight briefing to crew.
√0630 – Man aircraft for check sortie.
√0930 – Land back / debrief.
√1030 – Rush home to pick up son and wife.
1100 – Check in at Pediatric OPD.
1130 – Back to office for those infernal claims
1230– Back to Hospital, pick up family and drop them
1800– Bfg for next sortie.
Does this routine look familiar; across the board though here it pertains to this flight aircrew who never got to tick it through to its end. He met his end enroute home, in the form of a ubiquitous private bus barreling down the wrong side of the road. The fervent hope that the errant bus would swerve away at the last instance, as they customarily do in India, may have been the young aviator’s final thoughts. Some may recall similar myriad accidents wherein mates or close friends rushed to get that final job done or that irritating errand behind them, only to meet a horrific accident.
The ensuing inquiry into the above accident provides the logical conclusion: a kaleidoscope of stress related symptoms brought about by deadlines, work schedules and domestic commitments. Yet another casualty of the serial killerSTRESS? What drives a responsible, committed and thoroughly trained professional to his unintended fate? The desire to excel and organizational pride are ingrained in our ethos and value system. Do we often extend ourselves to that breaking point without compromising our system credits and without realizing it? The trend of such fatal mistakes, now more recurrent, have the unfortunate consequence of lapsing into empirical conclusions, the target of which benefits the immediate affected unit rather than fructifying into a common precautionary directive mandatory to be implemented by local commanders across the spectrum.
Home is where the heart is
Quoting researchers, more than 40 percent of adults experience adverse health effects associated with stress. Relate that to this: more than 75 percent hospital visits turn out to be caused by stress. Even more frightening: stress is known to exacerbate a number of medical conditions including gastro- intestinal disorders and cancer. Asthma, heart disease and long suppression of the immune system causing slow wound healing among other neurological diseases are some more manifestations of Stress says a Harvard study.
Frankly, how many of us admit stress? Rather than face chagrin or sound chicken, no task is undoable. Hack that, buddy and see you at the bar. Our outlook towards stress is to defend our misunderstanding of it. To accept stress is to akin to accepting failure. No way, you say, I understand my body and its limits well. But then, do we really? Our culture, which frowns upon a personal visit to the Sickbay, culls our physiological demands to a self- induced state of well being. We merrily deny our body the attention it needs based upon a flawed perception of our present physicality. Understanding that we need a break requires a maturity that age cannot tame. What calls the lion out is accepting our mental and physical states as two different facets welded to the same coin. Greater is the trust and lesser is the whip that supervisors need apply; stress has to be understood as an Enemy of Aviation.
Bell the Cat to Hold your Horses
Take time off to observe a bird nesting near your premises. Apart from the stress busting siesta, try to experience a natural avian unhindered by the vagaries of human schedule. Raw nature has imbued all creatures small or great with intrinsic qualities to engage in the business of life. The bird manages its daily task including extensive flying duties with consummate ease borne of routine and familiarity with its operating environment. If you are asked to evaluate its stress levels, you would probably point to the occasion when the bird was confronted with a predator. Take notice of the neighbourhood Tommy being outsmarted by the clever Tweety. The bird has developed techniques to ward off the cat’s haunt and return feints as well. Embedded DNA has ensured survival in a hostile environment.
Replace the cat with Stress. The metaphoric predator threatening our survival is a factor built within our confines of how we perceive our world should be. The emphasis laid on delivering the goods when the time calls and training to achieve that super preparedness is limited to an extent where the average individual meets the minimum expectations of the establishment. How the individual garners resources emotionally and mentally to remain combat fit in all phases of life is what the individual calls maturity or in material terms ‘experience’. On a higher plane, it is incumbent upon the modern aviator to remain stress free for delivering his best when duty calls.
Amongst all environs, AIR as a medium of operations brooks no mistakes and is the harshest in trends of fatalities. Man by nature adapts to his environs and keeps either changing or adapting till he is comfortable. His decisions and attitudes are influenced primarily by what is expected of him and his capabilities to accomplish his ambitions or desires. Entrusting yourself to operate a flying machine with all your faculties may be the most responsible decision YOU take for yourself. Bravado and courage are essential for facing the enemy in combat, they are equally necessary in waking up the warrior within you to face the enemy within. For within lies the nemesis of many a brave aircrew, the stress inherent from our daily pressures of myriad problems and the ego which plays villain by curbing the body’s silent cry for help. Listen to yourself; the inner call seeks your betterment, to turn it down implies denying your craving for mental discernment.
How to Call It Quits and Still be a Winner
This article and its message does not profess to be a Robin Sharma prose, but essentially endorses the view of reigning supreme over stress and its negative effects. When the going gets tough, the tough does not report sick but gets smart. Developing an individual approach to recognize stress and its symptoms means shedding loads of baggage in the form of foolhardy Yes Sir-ing and Get-It-Over-With-itis. You actually win when you understand stress exists even without it being apparent. A very useful tool is the “I AM SAFE” checklist being propagated by the FAA. It’s not yet another assault on the aircrew beleaguered by checklists, rather an internal prayer or introspection on behalf of
all those who love and stand by you. A simple guide akin to the aircraft pre-flight checklist, its import will only manifest the day you truthfully admit your responsibility to your aircrew or to your supervisor for failing the checklist.
Aircrew owe immensely to those who have trained us, imposed faith in us and entrusted us with the responsibility to master the skies whilst safeguarding our motherland. At the expense of our personal worries and doubts, taking to the flight line without recourse to self introspection is selfish and abominable. Mastering the senses is as important as mastering the hardy Air – Ferrari you steer across the blue firmament. As the Bhagwad Gita wisely preaches, “A calm mind has the power of a thousand storms”.