How stress can affect performance

Job stress comes in many different forms and affects our body in various ways. Although flying can be fun and therapeutic to some, however to us pilots flying is a profession and therefore we cannot run away from job stress. The sources of job stress and the stressors could be the same as any other jobs; they could be people related or equipment related.

Stress can lead to burnout, causing people to become unhappy and less productive in their work. Job stress will not only affect our health it will also affect our home life as well. Low levels of stress may not be noticeable; slightly higher levels can be good for us to enable us to function at our peak level of performance; whereas high levels of stress can be harmful, contributing to chronic disease.

Flying is a stressful profession. As pilots it is therefore important and crucial for us to carefully manage our stress level in order for us to perform at our peak and at the same time to have some available space and reserve to manage the increased stress level during non-normal situations.

Let us take a look at the diagram below. Assuming that a pilot starts work at a stress level at point “A.”Throughout the flight his stress level will vary according to the situation in the cockpit. Now assuming that he has a non-normal situation and his stress level is now increased. Since his stress level when he started work was relatively low, he still has some “reserve” left during the non-normal situation (his stress level is still below his tolerance or coping level).


If however he were to start work with a rather higher stress level of “B” and assuming the same conditions exist, now during a non-normal situation, his stress level will be above his tolerance (coping) level. This can be dangerous as his performance will be affected. He might exhibit stress symptoms that could affect his thoughts, feelings and behaviour and that could be detrimental to the flight.

Written by Azharuddin Osman

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