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Observation on Student/Trainee’s Under Stress Reaction

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Category: ATM Operations Training BP
ATM Operations Training Best Practices
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary
Content control: EUROCONTROL EUROCONTROL

Objective

This article describes observations made on student/trainee’s under stress reaction. It contains a list of distress reactions and some clues to instructors for assessment of students/trainees.

When conducting observation on stress reaction it is assumed that the main symptoms and characteristics of human stress are known and can be kept in mind during the process.

Stress Types

It is essential to point out that the term “stress” does not always bring a negative meaning. There are various types of stress that can be grouped into four main types of stress: eustress and distress in terms of quality and hyperstress and hypostress in terms of quantity.

Eustress

Eustress is considered a “good stress”. It is associated with situations and feelings of luck and happiness when one experiences positive feelings like: excitement, challenge, inventing something for the first time, being loved, etc.

These feelings make us feel good, they are the "positive stress" and are able to exert a healthy effect. They give a sense of fulfillment or content and also make one excited about life. Unfortunately, it is a type of stress that only occurs for a short period of time.

Eustress is also often called the curative stress because it gives a person the ability to generate the best performance or maximum output.

Distress

This type of stress is the opposite of Eustress and is called Distress (it is also called "bad" or "negative stress”). It is a stress disorder that is caused by adverse events and it often influences a person’s ability to cope with his/her tasks.

Distress can be classified further as acute stress or chronic stress. Acute stress is short-lived while chronic stress is usually prolonged in nature.

Hyperstress

When a person is pushed beyond what he or she can handle, he/she will experience what we called hyperstress.

Hyperstress results from being overloaded or overworked. It’s like being stressed out. When someone is hyperstressed, even little things can trigger a strong emotional response.

Hypostress

Hypostress stands in direct opposite to hyperstress. Hypostress is one of those types of stress experienced by a person who is constantly bored. Someone in an unchallenging job, such as a factory worker performing the same task over and over again, will often experience hypostress. The effect of hypostress is feelings of restlessness and a lack of inspiration.

The Narrow Meaning of “Stress”

The common use of the term stress usually refers to distress and that is why very often when we talk about stress we mean distress. This article explores mainly the distress, but one should not underestimate the importance of eustress and that it could be observed successfully and be very useful in any training processes. There are four groups of observable reaction to distress: Cognitive symptoms, Emotional symptoms, Physical symptoms, Behavioral symptoms.

Stressors

The circumstances that cause stress are known as stressors. They do not have to be with negative meaning, such as an exhausting work schedule or bad relationships. However, anything that puts high demands on an individual or forces him/her to adjust can be stressful. This includes positive events too.

What causes stress depends, at least in part, on one’s perception of it. Something that's stressful to someone may not be to someone else.

Symptoms of Stress

Cognitive Symptoms:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness

Physical Symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Eating more or less
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Isolating yourself from others
  • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
  • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
  • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Types of Observation

There are two typess of observation – deliberate and occasional.

The first one is a special task and needs a special methodology. The students and trainees must be told that they are under observation for at least two reasons – for ethical reasons and for keeping professional trust between trainer and student/trainee. It is not a matter of on-going trainer obligation.

The second type involves a huge emotional intelligence capacity in the trainer and special skills in emphatic behavior. It is also involved so called “Caring thinking” (see: Mathew Lipman “Caring as thinking”, in Inquiry: Critical Thinking Across the Discplines, Autumn, 1995, Vol. 15, No. 1.) where the idea of the cognitive nature of human feelings is used and defended.

The effective Trainer and the Student/Trainee Stress

The effective trainer must be aware of each student/trainee improvement in the study topics. The feelings and emotions grown up to a stress level carry a lot of information about the student/trainee capabilities and ability to cope with the task and the environment around. A good observation of the stress reactions or responses must include eustress reactions and responses. It is also an important part of the students/trainee assessment and shows a lot to an experienced trainer.

Stress Management Training

Observation on ATCO students/trainee reactions/responses to the stress (eustress, distress, hypostress and hyperstress) is a pre-requisite for developing stress management activities within the training process. The knowledge about the role of stress in human cognition is helpful in training design and training activities. If the trainer knows that stress could be a good stimulus with a positive effect on the ATCO trainee/students performance and cognitive achievements, this knowledge can help him/her avoid some prejudice which do not evaluate the positives of emotional intelligence. It does not mean to treat students/trainee in an unfair manner with situations that will bring nothing but distress. It means not to sterilize the classroom environment and allow all of the real job events to happen – with eustress and distress effects, with hypostress and hyperstress implications.

Stress management training is an important part of the qualitative ATCO training as far as this profession is regarded as one of the most stressful. It is not necessary to be done in a separate discipline within the curricula but could be provided in every single class or lesson.


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