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Understanding your fear - About Stress

Aug 17, 2007
Stress and the effects of stress are all part of modern life, however sometimes we confuse being busy with being stressed. Sometimes there isn't enough time in the day to complete the routine tasks of life and we have to prioritize what we do in both work and our domestic lives. When we perform minor tasks at the expense of the more important ones we get an increasing sense of urgency and inability to do them. Our mind tells us that we have done the wrong things. Stress however is not caused by doing the wrong things; stress is caused by our perception of the time available to do the things we have to do.

A definition used for pilots in their training regarding stress is as follows;

Stress is the difference between the perceived task and our perceived ability to perform the task.

You will see that this definition does not include any reference to the importance of what we do.
For instance the reason that traffic jams are so stressful to some people is that the perceived task i.e. getting to work on time versus the ability to get there on time is in conflict and out of one's control.

However if each morning you were escorted to work by a police car with its flashing lights and sirens going then your perceived ability to get to work on time would be fairly high and therefore your stress levels would come down.

Anyone who suffers from a fear of flying suffers considerable stress because the task of getting on a plane and flying away compared with ability to perform that task is almost non-existent. This causes very high levels of stress, which affect many aspects of our cognitive (thinking) processes. The first step to reduce stress levels it is to set realizable outcomes. You should set your expectations to something that you can realistically achieve, and then when you enjoy success you can raise your expectations gradually until you meet your required outcome.

Clearly if you have a fear of flying, you cannot expect to fly as happily as the crew do. Perhaps it would be more realistic to expect to be very anxious generally. Why not concentrate on a small part of the flight where your anxiety can be reduced. Perhaps your first task might be to walk around in the cabin or to let go of the armrests for a few moments; start with something simple, congratulate yourself, then set new targets.

The mind is open to all sorts of negative thoughts when stressed. A fearful flyer not only suffers the overall stress of flying but also to additional stresses like turbulence or being in an enclosed space.
If you change your perceived task, youll increase your chances of your perceived ability to do it. Then you will be in a better state to apply a working strategy. And a working strategy should be your immediate goal.

Here is something that could help.

If you aim to climb a mountain, then you will succeed only when you reach the summit. If however you aim to get as far up the mountain as you can, then each time you try youll succeed. This is not a question of setting low standards or aspirations its setting realistic ones. After all overcoming your fear is not a competition, theres no winning or losing there is only succeeding.

And success breeds success.
About the Author
Having spent 27 years as a BA Pilot I became the youngest person in the UK to hold a flying instructors licence and became the youngest person to be the Chief Instructor of a CAA approved flying school. If you have a fear of flying check out http://www.flyingwithoutfear.com, for help and resources.
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