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Old 18th Dec 2011, 05:45   #1 (permalink)

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Red face Suffering from irrational anxiety

Hi, hope this doesn't come off as too crazy, but I want to see if I am in complete left field here or if anyone else has gone through intense irrational anxiety. When I first started flying, I used to get a bit nervous just before my checkrides as I'm sure most pilots do. Now at an airline, I am approaching upgrade to Captain, and am really suffering from anxiety over everything from simple line checks to sim training. My self confidence drops about a month before sim and I go into the training pretty well convinced that it will be the last ride before I completely lose the plot and I end up selling used cars or something! The 3 days of sim work consist of me doing everything I can to stay calm on my downtime (yoga, meditation, breathing) while my racing mind continuously feeds me crazy thoughts where I envision all sorts of horrible failure scenarios usually ending up with me having to go home and explain to the family how Dad will be doing something different now for a job! The only time I finally calm down is when I actually have my hands on the controls. Visualization of a positive outcome does help somewhat, but only temporarily.

This has been a growing problem for the past 4 years or so, and has progressed from simple sim jitters to the point where I get public-speaking type anxiety at times during simple routine matters--for a while I would get really uncomfortable when making PA's, and then that anxiety suddenly disappeared--only to be replaced by an intense discomfort when having to brief the FA's, similar to what one might feel when faced with a monumental task of public speaking!

Somehow, despite all of this, my flying performance is fine and the "recommend for upgrade" box gets ticked off every 6 months after my rides, so I realize I am becoming my own worst enemy. You would likely never know I was feeling this way if you flew with me. Despite all of the self-help reading, journaling, yoga and other (non-medicinal) attempts to self-correct these frustrating thought patterns, it still seems to come up every 6 months, and is so bad it really makes me wonder if I can tolerate this level of stress for the rest of my career. I intend to get some professional assistance with this so that I can become an effective Captain, but am a bit wary of going outside aviation circles with it right now. I would really like to hear other opinions if anyone else has gone through this and please share how you are dealing with it.
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Old 18th Dec 2011, 12:34   #2 (permalink)
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The ironic thing is you understand your problem better than most ever could. After years of suffering from anxiety and keeping it to myself I had a co-worker bring up his experience with anxiety, man what a relief it was to speak with someone in the same boat as myself. Not feeling like I need to conceal my anxiety so much really helped. Last experience was up on a lift rigging an elevator position indicator, (what if I pass out, what if I fall), screw it I told the guy I was working with "hey I am having a shitty day and really stressed out, I just want you to understand if I flake out on you" it helped.
I understand your position is different, I hope my sharing helped a bit.
One more thing to add, obviously the anticipation of anxiety is the main driver of anxiety. When I am put in a real stressful environment I have a clear mind and become the alpha while many around me crack up, it is only afterwards that the anxiety strikes again.
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Old 18th Dec 2011, 19:14   #3 (permalink)
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Being well prepared goes a long way towards reducing jitters. We all get those feelings to some degree, but if you've done your homework, part of which should be visualizing yourself correctly carrying out the required procedures, you'll be fine. I, like you, feel the nerves up until getting in the seat and then I'm good to go. If you didn't feel some of this, you wouldn't me motivated to prepare properly, so it has some value. Imagine feeling irrationally cool to the point that you didn't do the work, and then looking foolish. There's a thing to fear.
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Old 18th Dec 2011, 20:51   #4 (permalink)
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See a good Cognitive Behavioural Therapist....

Good luck
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Old 18th Dec 2011, 22:48   #5 (permalink)
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Some of the best actors suffer the worst nerves in the wings. Just go for it, and remember, if you've got a moment where there seems to be nothing to do, you've forgotten something.

When things get tough that's the time to pull shutters down on real world thoughts. It's a difficult technique, but I can create an almost physical blackness to unwanted stimulus. Took a while to learn that.

There also has to be a very determined bloody-mindedness to show who's in charge. Command checks are just that, and be ready to do battle. When you step into that briefing room, you are already a captain. Not for one moment must you let anyone sense you feel different.

I recall having to go back to DC3s for my first command. After shiny new jets, the clattering noise and the confusion of crappy old ADFs rumbling round gave me the only 'throw in the towel' moment I can remember as I prepared for my Base and IR at AMS. Opened the taps and lumbered into the air and everything went like clockwork . . . even the VDF approach!
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Old 19th Dec 2011, 02:45   #6 (permalink)
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Loose rivits

It's a difficult technique, but I can create an almost physical blackness to unwanted stimulus. Took a while to learn that.
Thus is what I strive for, wonderful words sir. Will try to use this as a mantra!

Funny this is how I quit smoking, I realized I would say to myself "I have to quit" then my mind would would say "damn I want a cigarette". I ultimately decided to focus on the darkness behind my eyelids as the pro and con was a negative mental factor producing a lack of self confidence.

I have yet to apply this to my anxiety (consciously) as I have not viewed it as an addiction.

I will try to view anxiety as an addiction. Will see how it goes. Thanks again.
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Old 19th Dec 2011, 13:24   #7 (permalink)

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Thanks for the responses, guys. It is always better to hear from my peers vs. a generic book.

I'd like to learn more about this technique that was mentioned:

"When things get tough that's the time to pull shutters down on real world thoughts. It's a difficult technique, but I can create an almost physical blackness to unwanted stimulus. Took a while to learn that."

Can you give more details about how you reached such a high level of mental discipline?
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Old 19th Dec 2011, 20:33   #8 (permalink)
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See a good Cognitive Behavioural Therapist....
Sounds like sound advice.
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Old 20th Dec 2011, 09:53   #9 (permalink)
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Arenít you overworked? Seeing a good therapist probably is equivalent of losing a job. Lately, spoke with my mum ( an aviation doctor ) about flying in general, ( as a lady ) , and I understand that I could get scared of flying after being accepted by the airlines , but, I had added a friend . I thought with him always. Actually, you are on a way of becoming a captain then reach it, and at latter change a company you ought to be doing fine then. Or perhaps try to find the source of the i- a, like by checking the thyroid of yours?
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Old 20th Dec 2011, 15:07   #10 (permalink)
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Second CBT, it can help to change your thought pattern so when you recognise you're becoming anxious, you can stop whatever 'thought circle' you're getting into before it gets you too worked up.

I'd also be curious as to if you think there might have been any event that could have triggered this off- either in the 4 years you mention or possibly in childhood that's only just manifesting now. That's why it's a good idea to go see a counsellor or therapist who can advise if you need any further professional help, or just set you on the right path with some tools to deal with the everyday issues that might arise.

Try these links also, some workbook/spreadsheet style documents here
Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI) - Psychotherapy, Research, Training

All the best!

Last edited by givemewings; 8th Jan 2012 at 13:41. Reason: remove personal details
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Old 20th Dec 2011, 19:41   #11 (permalink)
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Seeing a good therapist probably is equivalent of losing a job.
Yes, I can see the point. Beating the Blues and Mind Gym are available on line though.

Of course, flying should elicit some anxiety. If it doesn't, then you probably need more help than if it does
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Old 20th Dec 2011, 20:52   #12 (permalink)
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I came across this article regarding anxiety while flying, it's very interesting.

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Old 21st Dec 2011, 00:24   #13 (permalink)
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Great find, I wish more people in our industry would read this.
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Old 21st Dec 2011, 16:57   #14 (permalink)
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Regarding the link to the AOPA article that I posted, the author describes his anxiety while flying as the feeling of the helicopter being the head of a pin and no matter which way he moves the cyclic, he feels like he is going to 'fall off'!
I'm having that exact feeling every time I get up to 2500ft!
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Old 21st Dec 2011, 17:05   #15 (permalink)

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I remember doing the vortex-ring demo in the Whirlwind. With the window slid back, the sill was about the level of your thighs, and we climbed to 10,000'.

sidestickphil, check your PMs.
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Old 21st Dec 2011, 21:13   #16 (permalink)
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My UK based AME has a sideline in using NLP techniques to help commercial pilots combat this very issue. I understand it can be very successful.
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Old 22nd Dec 2011, 03:25   #17 (permalink)

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Just want to thank everyone for taking an interest in this thread and also taking the time to post. Lots of helpful comments and supportive PM's that are much appreciated.

A quick update: on a recent trip, the skipper casually asked if I would like to do the crew briefing. "Sure!" I replied, as casually as I could, then headed outside for the walkaround with my stomach in a bit of a knot! Found myself hyperventilating, but got myself calmed down with some deep breathing and was able to conduct the briefing with no significant outward display of nerves, (I think) although the first few words felt like cotton in my mouth! The FA's were a good bunch though, and a good discussion resulted and at the end I was fairly comfortable leading the conversation. Weird, but the nerves surrounding PA's have completely disappeared now.

I have heard that the best way through anxiety is right through it; ie; take it on directly. As a result, I am going to volunteer to do more of these briefings (I used to be a Captain at the old shop and had no issue with this stuff at all, hence my surprise at my own reaction of late).

I am also not ruling out the fact I may be burned out, as I fly fairly consistent 95-100 hour months, picking up overtime so wifey can stay home with the kids. This has gone on more or less for the last 5 years. I'm hoping an upcoming month off on vacation will yield some answers and refresh me so I can get back to normal! If not, I am starting the hunt for some professional advice.

Many thanks again to all.
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Old 26th Dec 2011, 05:34   #18 (permalink)
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deep slow breathing relaxes cronic anxiety sufferers, the stomach should come out as you breathe inrelax all muscles and to breathe out, just let the air flow outversions of this are taught to stage actors to calm and reduce the jitters and panicalso helps to have frequent stretches
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Old 2nd Jan 2012, 03:54   #19 (permalink)
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Take a look at those two Amino Acids. L-Tryptophan and L-Tyrosine. They are the building blocks of your chemistry in your brain (aka serotonin, dopamine, noradrenaline, etc.). If these are out of balance, you go from once in a while slightly "uncomfortable" to full blown anxiety attacks. Esp. when you suspect a burn out as well, take a close look at these amino acids. I suggest you hop to health store (i buy mine at the Vitamineshoppe) get those amino's and do some google research. There's a wealth of info about these two amino's and its well worth reading into it. I use both of them and it's magic.

Hope that helps you a bit!
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Old 2nd Jan 2012, 14:52   #20 (permalink)
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It certainly is magic

Not science
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