June 21, 2024

Stress can be a useful tool in fast-paced, mission-focused industries like business aviation, but as the NBAA Business Aviation Management Committee’s (BAMC) “Summer Learning Series Webinar: How to Recharge” warns, sustained exposure to stress without appropriate remedies can have a lasting effect on a person’s body and mind.

“In the short term, stress can be helpful; it improves our focus and attention, improves our immune function and helps us survive the moment. But, when it continues for a longer period of time — even as little as 30 minutes — you can start to accumulate a stress load, and that’s where we really start to get into trouble,” explained stress expert Dr. Heidi Hanna, chief energy officer of Synergy Brain Fitness.

“After that, the brain doesn’t work well in problem-solving or creativity, so you need neural nudges to reset and recharge your nervous system so that you can go back into the stress. We don’t want stress to go away because it helps us adapt and grow, but we want the right dose.” Hanna continued.

Along with BAMC members Dustin Cordier, founder of StepZero Coaching, and Lori Johnson, marketing and communications manager at Duncan Aviation, Hanna discussed some of the best approaches and practices for helping business aviation professionals handle stress in a healthy and positive way.

The speakers emphasized the power of understanding that perfectionism can be the enemy of good. Sometimes, the perfect solution is simply impossible, they noted, so always have a Plan B that helps get you to your goal, as well as the realization that some goals may be unattainable at that moment. Don’t look at it as a failure, they said, but rather as a reality of life.

One’s reaction to a stressful situation can either heighten or alleviate stress. An unexpectedly long commute, for instance, can be filled with pain and anguish or calm and serenity, depending on how you want to experience it. Broken sleep patterns, too, can either be tiring or relaxing, contingent on how you react. The same applies to team management, flying schedules and numerous other aspects of a high-performing industry like business aviation, the speakers added.

While every approach to stress management is a personal journey, Hanna noted that there are general approaches that have proven successful. A balanced diet, exercise, proper sleep and a calm work environment all can help, as can routines like to-do lists that mitigate stress and making a conscious effort to distinguish work from home life.

But, they said, if stress starts to impact your home or work life or your sadness lasts more than three weeks, seek professional help.

For Hanna, starting the day as calmly as possible is crucial, so that means no screens or email for at least 30 minutes. “There’s never enough time to do everything, so why introduce stress at the beginning of your day? Eat breakfast outside, listen to music, meditate, snuggle with a pet — do something that makes you happy. Understand that it can’t happen every day, but knowing what works for you can establish an attitude of openness, flexibility and lightness,” she said.