Which job do you think involves the biggest amount of stress? Doctor? Police officer? No, it turns out, air traffic controllers have to go through an immense amount of stress. It is because they are constantly attacked by a huge amount of information and their mistakes cost a lot more than just their job. However, scientists noticed that some of them somehow learned to manage their stress levels incredibly well.

If a doctor makes a huge mistake he might get into trouble, but situations where one decision might have lethal consequences are actually pretty rare. Police officers have even fewer situations when they can ruin everything with one mistake. Meanwhile air traffic controllers have high levels of stress from the minute they come to work till the time they leave home. Every small mistake can cause delays and chaos and bigger ones can instantly kill hundreds of people.

Then there is all the information you can to deal with when you’re controlling air traffic. What’s the weather? Which flights are going to be delayed and by how much? What’s the situation in every airport that is in your territory? And then there is your team waiting for your decisions and trying not to bother you with their own problems. So it is a perfect medium for stress to build up.

Some people quit very quickly, while others remain good sane air traffic controllers for decades and don’t even look stressed. What is the difference between a successful air traffic specialist and a one who quits very quickly? Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University professor and author of “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst”, says it is the ability to turn off the stress.

Everyone is really stressed in air traffic control centre. However, those who have to quit their jobs there due to stress feel stressed all the time. They go home and are still thinking about their difficult time at job. Meanwhile successful air traffic controllers are stressed while they’re at work, but as soon as their shift is over they relax and start thinking about dinner. Sapolsky says it is because they can maximize their signal-to-noise ratio.

What is here to learn? If you’re currently very stressed about an exam coming up or meeting an important deadline, you should learn to take a break every day and not to think about your efforts at that time. It is easier said than done, but it is a skill that is definitely very useful in life. Worrying about something now and being relaxed later will make you healthier and better at what you’re trying to do.


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