Astronaut’s Guide to Navigating Stress

In this video from Big Think, astronaut Chris Hadfield explains how to manage your reaction when stress hits.

An essential part of astronaut training is navigating uncertainty and risk. Having worked as an astronaut, engineer, and pilot, Chris Hadfield has firsthand experience negotiating acutely stressful situations.

In this video for BigThink, he shares his toolbox of practices for expertly managing stress.

1) Understand what scares you

While blasting toward the unknown, Chris Hadfield explains that astronauts have to prepare for what’s to come. Unshakable bravery is essential, which means understanding your fears is crucial.

What’s Hadfield’s biggest fear? “When I think I’m at risk for something, but I don’t know what to do,” he says

“The best antidote for stress is competence,” says Hadfield.

Astronauts handle fear of the unknown by training and getting familiar with all the dangers and risks they may encounter. Then they practice responding to those threats over and over again so that instead of being nervous or stressed, they’re ready.

“The best antidote for stress is competence,” says Hadfield.

2) Use your stress as a cue to prepare

Hadfield suggests that we should all pay close attention to where (and how) stress surfaces for us.

For many people, Hadfield included, stress often manifests itself physically. “You feel nervous, and you feel a little bit sick, and your body’s giving you all sorts of clues,” Hadfield says.

Stress is just your body telling you, you’re not ready,  Hadfield says.

Once you realize that, you can use your stress as a signal to prepare, to improve your readiness. Whatever span of time that might be, it can help you gain ground—instead of being sucked into that sick, anxious feeling of stress.

3) Practice acceptance

You can’t change the stressful situation, but you can change your response to it. It’s all about preparing yourself, says Hadfield. If you knew you were going to get a flat tire on your way to work, he says, you would prepare by bringing a spare tire and a jack with you.

“The blowing of the tire doesn’t change, but your reaction is completely different,” Chris Hadfield says.

It’s the same with stress. If you’re paying attention to your body, and you know what stresses you out, and how your body responds to that stress, you can learn to prepare yourself better for the things that might stress you out. The stressful situation won’t change, but you’ll be better prepared to handle it with the grace of an astronaut.

Video from BigThink

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