This has been one hell of a year in every aspect of my life. It has been filled with tremendous highs and extreme lows. 2019 has included the top four life stressers: finally, I got my dream job, I moved into a new house with an amazing woman, I’ve faced family drama and great pain and tragedy facing the death of my mother. I’ve had her on my mind and in my heart every minute I’ve worked on this issue, so to her it is lovingly dedicated.
As pilots, the way we perform our jobs is critical. Sometimes we have to carry on and endure what is going on in our lives. We compartmentalize. How we deal with the “S” in the I’M SAFE checklist (Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue and Emotion) is very important. I never chose to be an “expert” on dealing with stress, but I’ve discovered that it becomes easier through each experience.
Put yourself first. What I have learned, above all, is that you must take care of yourself. It’s healthy to remove yourself from the stressful situation and do something you want, or feel you need, to do. Personally, I have been playing a lot of golf and working out this year. I have indulged my sweet-tooth but I’ve kept it in balance. I’ve also learned that it’s particularly important to ensure that you eat properly during stressful times. Your psyche is already compromised so you need your body to be ready to endure.
Treat tasks like a business. When things go bad, you still need to function. You buckle down, set your emotions aside until an appropriate time and take care of what needs to be taken care of.
Talk about it. Family, friends, counselors and/or spiritual leaders are key to keeping stress in check. Talking about what’s going on helps you relieve and release some of the stress. Being reassured that you are not alone in your feelings is so valuable. Feedback from your network of support is immeasurably important.
I’ve thought of my recent stresses as I do an emergency in the flight deck – fly the plane (take care of yourself), deal with the emergency to get onto the ground safely (handle your business) and debrief (talk about it). Fly like you train, live like you fly.
I probably needn’t say that I’m looking forward to this year being behind me and am looking forward to all the good that I anticipate in 2020. It will soon be upon us all. Meanwhile, enjoy the holidays, manage your stresses, focus on what’s really important and keep the pointy end moving forward.