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KEY POINTS:

1. In a high-pressure situation, mindfulness can be used to help deal with stress and find confidence in the most intense situations. 

2. Possessing the ability to stay calm under pressure is the bedrock of outstanding performance, especially in your line of work, because in a calm state we can more reliably regulate our attention and behaviour.

3. When we feel stressed out, just taking deeper breaths for about 60 seconds is a very effective way of regulating stress because it activates the parasympathetic response in the body, which signals to the emotional centres of the brain that it’s time to calm down.

By Dr. Greg Wells

Imagine you are about to give a presentation to a large audience. Are your palms sweaty? Is your heart beginning to flutter? Is your stomach turning? Are you thinking “oh my, there are so many people out there” or worrying about what the crowd will be thinking of you?

Whether it’s a presentation, a playoff game, a life-threatening situation, or even a first date, performance under pressure is something we can all relate to. And here’s a little secret: paying attention to what you’re thinking about is the first step to mastering your performance.

George Mumford is a sports psychologist who has been working with mindfulness for years to help athletes perform at their best in the moments that matter most. He’s worked with elite athletes, like Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kobe Bryant to name a few, training them to become more aware of their thoughts and to connect with their body so that they can find a place of ease and confidence in the most intense situations. You may not be an elite athlete, but you’ve got your own intense moments in your line of work.

Research has recently produced evidence that supports the idea that mindfulness practices are aligned with optimal performance. For example, one meta-analysis reviewed 270 independent studies and found that mindfulness had a positive effect on performance and was negatively related to how much stress people perceived in their lives.

When we react to stress, sometimes the brain and body respond in a way that is not always best for the situation. One example is how stress impacts our attention. If you are in a room with a rattlesnake, you’re likely not paying attention to the colour of the curtains! Biological programming locks your attention toward the snake. This is what psychologists refer to as the threat-rigidity response

The downside is that sometimes we don’t want our attention to become narrow and rigid. Think of how important it would be to an advertising executive to be able to think broadly and openly even when a deadline is approaching. Sometimes we want our attention to be flexible instead of focusing only on what we perceive to be our largest threat. Possessing the ability to stay calm under pressure is the bedrock of outstanding performance, in the airline industry and elsewhere, because in a calm state, we can more reliably regulate our attention and behaviour.

When we feel stressed out, just taking deeper breaths for about 60 seconds is a very effective way of regulating stress. It activates the parasympathetic response in the body, which floods the brain with oxygen and signals to the emotional centres of the brain that it’s time to calm down.

If you look over past highly-stressful situations, you may be able to see when deep breathing could have helped to calm your mind and open it to several possible solutions. That’s where mindfulness can take you – to a today and tomorrow where you can achieve a state of calm and effectiveness at a higher level than ever before. 

Today's Power Up: The STOP Practice

The next time you feel suffocated by the pressure of a situation, try the STOP practice. STOP stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe, and Proceed. Here are the four steps in detail.

1. Stop whatever you’re doing and become aware of the present moment.

2. Take a breath. Or two. Or ten.

3. Observe your body and scan it for any sensations, tension, emotions that are present.

4. Proceed. Carry on with life and set an intention guided by “what’s most important as I move forward?”. It may even be that you need to cycle through the STOP practice again!

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.