I remember early on in flight training about the acronym “I’M SAFE”. While a seemingly ambiguous phrase in normal conversation, it holds a deeper meaning for those in the aviation community. It was developed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as a tool for pilots to use before they went out flying. It was a quick way to check if you were physically and mentally ready to fly, hence the acronym “I’M SAFE”.
I is for…
For my readers not familiar with this checklist, here is the meaning for each letter.
- I is for Illness. Have I been ill lately? Do I feel like I’m coming down with something? Will that sinus infection affect my ability to fly?
- M is for Medication. Have I been taking an over-the-counter drug? Is this drug allowed to be used when I’m operating heavy equipment, like an airplane?
- S is for Stress (and my focus for this post). Am I stressed about something going on in my life? Do I feel like there’s too much going on in life to focus on this flight today? When’s the last time I relaxed?
- A is for Alcohol. When was my last drink? Was it 8 hours ago or less?
- F is for Fatigue. How much sleep did I get last night? Have I been sleeping enough each night over the last few days? How much sleep should I be getting to be fully rested?
- Lastly, E is for Eating. When was the last time I ate? Did I eat enough? Did I eat something that will carry me through the whole flight?
S is for Stress
Today’s post is focused on one particular element of the checklist: Stress. Yes, I probably picked the most difficult item on the list to ascertain whether or not I’m safe to fly. This item has always been a difficult one for me to tackle personally. Now, I don’t fly as much as I used to, but this checklist is great for other things besides flying. It’s good for getting ready for your next busy week at work, or school, or that next big exam, presentation, and the list pretty much goes on and on. I spent all of college really learning how to deal with stress and it wasn’t as if there weren’t plenty of opportunities to practice it.
The real break-through came somewhere around four years ago when I developed tension headaches. I don’t normally go to the doctor if I can help it but when they didn’t quit, I knew it was time to get them checked out. Turns out these headaches have a lot of different triggers such as lack of sleep, poor eating habits, too much stress, caffeine and more. Since there wasn’t any one trigger, I worked on a variety of ways to help with the headaches. I quit of my many jobs, set a mandatory bedtime, ate better, and cut way down on caffeine.
A few years later, I’m much healthier and I brought exercise back into the picture over the last few years in small ways. It started as a fun socializing event with friends in school which led to running all last winter, and now I’m hiking and running all over the town I currently live in. While Undergrad is officially over and I’m now working full-time, I found time to squeeze a Grad class in here and there.
However, I deal with stress much more constructively through a good night’s sleep, proper eating habits, as well as lots of physical activity. Plus, living in the Pacific North West leaves no shortage of new places to explore.
Stress Be Gone!
Everyone deals with stress differently and at their own pace, so just don’t take my word for it. However, whether you’re off for a challenging flight lesson, or a challenging work week, think about how stress affects you personally.
Maybe go take a walk or read a book, or run a 5K – you just might find yourself a little less stressed and certainly a lot more productive.