AviationPros.com Online Exclusive

Dirty Dozen: Stress

Is stress a killer? According to the American Heart Association stress causes high blood pressure and high blood pressure increases the likelihood for heart attack and stroke.  The American Heart Association states premature death from heart attack and stroke can be avoided or lessened by monitoring and lowering high blood pressure.

Dr. Paulette Ledoux, Ph.D., a tenured university psychology professor who has taught graduate student courses in psychology, states, “Recent research concludes that more than one in three Americans suffer from stress. Stress is a major contributor to a variety of health conditions. Consider these basic suggestions: Learn to recognize how you deal with stress. Then find healthy stress-reducing activities. Take care and time for yourself. When life gets hectic, pursue a hobby or escape activities. When feeling overwhelmed, reach out for support.”
Stimulus necessary; too much or too little is dangerous
The military of numerous countries have performed stimulus deprivation tests (SDT) to study the effect of individuals in various task situations. The research relating to divers and high altitude pilots were nearly the same. The lack of stimuli leads to an abnormal functioning of the mind. This malfunctioning may take place in the form of seeing imaginary items or creatures or in a virtual like state.

A lessening of the normal concentration of oxygen leads to hallucinations among the subjects. In divers, a condition often referred to as “rapture of the deep”appears to occur when the concentration ofoxygen and a lack of stimuli coexist. And the individuals believe they can remove their breathing apparatus and exist there without an air supply.

Stimulus deprivation tests are normally given by placing an individual in a tank of nearly body temperature water and wrapping the hands, arms, and legs in a foam like material to prevent contact or even the sensation of touch.

After a period of time, the individual usually begins to hallucinate and imagine creatures or items moving toward them.

High altitude pilots kept in SDT imagined object and creatures. Frequently these objects were surrounding them or flying beside them in space. These situations occurred after continued lack of stimulus.

Therefore, the human mind requires a certain amount of stimuli to live and to function properly, however an overabundance of stimuli may cause various other undesirable effects and stress.

Knowing the cause
One Midwestern school annually surveys students on the topic “What stresses you?” This has become a favorite way for students to vent their frustrations and address their stressors in writing.

Carla Ryba, director of the Pittsburgh Campus of Career Training Academy, states, “Students have more tensions in their lives today. They are struggling to balance parenthood, their education, full- or part-time jobs, and everyday issues that arise. Add to those stressors an unemployed spouse or severe financial problems and students have to overcome many obstacles to be successful in their education.”

Study of working professionals and adult students
In another study among working professionals and adult students remarkable similarities were found. The stressors or the items causing stress were extremely similar.
There are not many variations in the answers between students in post secondary schools, junior colleges, and technical schools and the typical adult work force. A majority of the answers ironically are involved in four items or issues. Those issues are money, time, family, and energy.

Your stressors ?

Money issues or finances

Time for goals -personal time

Family and relationships

Lack of energy, sleep problems

Work force *





Students **





*Adult workforce: The composition of the subjects (the universe of the study) consisted of 39.8 percent professionals, 34.1 percent blue collar, and 26.1 percent clerical/retail.

Adult participants listed the following as methods to lower the level of stress in their lives.

  • job satisfaction or completing projects at work
  • time with spouse
  • socializing with coworkers
  • socializing with friends
  • time with family and children
  • reading and non-meal cooking rated identically
  • exercising
  • watching TV
  • shopping
  • traveling
  • time with pets
  • hobbies
  • being pampered with a massage, manicure, etc.
  • attending church
  • charity work and nonprofit volunteering
  • the net

Interestingly, less than 1 percent felt lawn work or gardening was a stress reliever,
Non-meal cookingrelates to fancy dishes or unique desserts not required to sustain a family’s daily nutritional needs.

**Student participants: The student component consisted of 29.6 percent technical students, 27.8 percent junior college/community college students, and 42 .6 percent traditional college students.
Students contributed the following as methods to lower the level of stress.

  • hanging out with friends***
  • partying
  • watching TV
  • the net
  • sports and competitions
  • traveling
  • shopping as the greatest stress reliever

***This includes going to bars, movies, concerts, small group socializing, and going out to eat. While many chose more than one stress reliever, as a total less than 9 percent of the student group felt reading was a stress reliever.

In the adult work force more than 21.3 percent felt reading was a form of stress relief. Perhaps reading is more relaxing because most adults are not required to read volumes of books like students during their studies.

Stress relievers
As an AMT professional everyday can be a stressful event. With diminishing returns, long hours, and less staff the pressure is on you to perform and perform perfectly every second. You can do it but you do need those escapes when work is done.

One AMT professional Chris McDermott enjoyed playing “Paul Bunyan” by cutting down trees on his days off. He used his saws to create a better world. The action served a threefold purpose.

  • Offers a different type of exercise than daily repairs of aircraft.
  • Creates firewood for esthetic events as well as an energy source.
  • Cleared brush and land for future and better tree growth.

Self-directed stress reduction may arrive in many forms. Take a relaxation course or class in the study of Reiki, yoga, self-hypnosis, meditation, and other relaxation techniques.

If you have trouble sleeping one self-remedy technique often mentioned is to relax the tongue. This process requires not allowing the tongue to touch the roof of your mouth or bottom of your mouth.

Another relaxation technique is self-hypnosis. In self-hypnosis, the individual tells each part of the body to relax from toes to feet to ankle, etc. The technique has some strong advocates but every individual should analyze if the technique works for their lifestyle.
If you have a technique which works well, let us know at AMT.

Massage therapy is another method of reducing stress and high blood pressure or (hypertension) in many individuals. Career Training Academy is the first accredited school for massage therapy in Pennsylvania with three separate campuses which offer student clinics and highly discounted prices on massage.

Stress reduction courses and seminars are provided by numerous organizations including community colleges, book stores, and seminars companies.

Craig J. “Buzz” Conroy is a speaker and researcher who informs and entertains aviation professionals and business audiences with unique and enlightening programs. He has a master’s degree in Aviation Leadership from MSU. He serves as resident expert for two national news networks on aviation and business related topics. To contact Conroy, email aviation@journalist.com or call (724) 443-6876 or (800) 344-1492.

This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen was developed by Gordon Dupont at Transport Canada. They are critical factors in the area of human factors and safety; they include complacency, lack of knowledge, lack of teamwork, distraction, fatigue, lack of resources, pressure, lack of assertiveness, lack of communication, norms, stress, and lack of awareness.