The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

Key Points:

1. Mental health is just as important as physical health in your journey towards a high performance life.   

2. This month, we're going to learn techniques that will help you deal with stress, stay focused, overcome setbacks, and ultimately reach your health and performance potential.  

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods

In October 2012, Felix Baumgartner stepped out of a small capsule that was attached to a balloon that had climbed to an altitude of 127,852 feet – the edge of space – to plummet to earth. Felix claimed the title of the fastest man ever in freefall, having reached a speed in excess of 1300 km/hr. His heart rate ranged from 143-185 beats per minute (the same level as would be achieved in a maximal effort running race). During the fall, he managed to maintain control and get out of a 13-second-long flat spin where his body was rotating a rate of one full spin every second. It was without question one of the most incredible human achievements and is a perfect example of peak performance that required precise preparation, elite execution, and clear thinking under pressure. But the mission almost failed, because Felix was afraid of the suit he had to wear.

In the months leading up to the jump, Felix developed paralyzing claustrophobia. He had to wear a sealed and pressurized spacesuit. It was not comfortable. Felix began to panic when he had to deal with the suit. Prior to this event, Felix had completed 2500 jumps and had jumped off of skyscrapers as well as out of airplanes. So he was no stranger to fear and managing his psychology.

To overcome this challenge, Felix enlisted the assistance of a sport psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais. Dr. Gervais went to work with Felix to provide him with the tools and techniques that he needed to execute his performance while under tremendous pressure – in this case, while his life was on the line. He began his work by checking that Felix was in fact committed to the mission and not just using the suit as an excuse not to jump. The second step was to determine where Felix was focusing his thoughts and attention. They figured out that Felix was fixated on the suit and had lost his connection with the overall vision of the mission. He had lost the dream. Focused on the urgent issue of the day, the important work that would lead to achievement was on the sidelines.

Dr. Gervais and Felix began to work together to do a few key things. They first reconnected Felix with the most powerful element of the mission, which was the dream to do something that no human had ever done before. Then they slowly began to desensitize Felix to the suit, getting him used to small parts of it one step at a time. For example, Felix would wear the boots for a full day while doing other tasks. Slowly, he began to get used to all the parts and was able, incrementally, to tolerate the suit.

This mirrors our principle of the aggregate of 1% gains, which I've talked about throughout this Program. Dr. Gervais taught Felix how to control his breathing to calm himself and how to speak to himself positively to stay focused. Finally, they worked on staying in the present so that Felix could manage his mental state.

The message here is that everyone, even the most highly-trained and experienced specialists, encounter mental challenges that affect their performance and health. Despite the fact that your industry – aviation – is one of the most regulated and safest in the world, there are common stresses and mental challenges in your work. Depending on your particular role, some of those challenges may be flight lengths, jet lag, shift work, absence from home, difficulty maintaining routines, and dealing with the public. And like Felix, you may find that something that has not previously bothered you comes to the forefront and requires some thought and energy to resolve. Like anyone, you want to live your best life. Not just be a better employee, but be a better you: friend, partner, parent, dreamer, doer, self.

By applying principles from sport psychology, positive psychology and eastern philosophies, you can learn to perform to your potential and achieve better health at the same time. That’s the foundation of what I call Think Clearly.

This month we will work together to build the tools for better mental health and performance.

Today's POWER-UP: Play to Your Strengths

IN THE FACE OF SETBACKS, WE OFTEN FOCUS ON WHY WE WERE NOT ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH THAT TASK OR GET THAT JOB/AWARD/GRANT/ETC. BY SHIFTING OUR ATTENTION TO OUR STRENGTHS, WE CAN GAIN GREAT CONFIDENCE IN OUR ABILITIES DESPITE SETBACKS. WE CAN ALSO SEE WHERE WE SHOULD BE DIRECTING OUR ENERGIES.

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS:

1. AM I A LEADER?
2. AM I CREATIVE?
3. DO I LIKE LEARNING NEW THINGS?
4. AM I GOOD AT WORKING IN A TEAM?
5. AM I GOOD AT GETTING WORK DONE WHEN I'M ALONE?

 

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.