Keeping aircraft systems, components, and equipment in top working order requires physical and mental sharpness and stamina. Most in the maintainer arena are already physically active yet probably could use information about injury avoidance and how to stay mentally solid.
Some of the most common health stressors are the result of:
- Repetitive movements and tasks
- Continuous use of hands and tools
- Exposure to hazardous conditions
- Working with hazardous equipment
- Environmental thermal stressors
- Noise and high-volume sounds
- Frequent standing and walking
- Wearing safety or protective wear/gear
- Working in cramped spaces and awkward places
Let’s cover some of the essentials to see if any revisions or expansions can be made:
Ergonomics and physical upgrades:
- Avoid neck flexion (looking down) for extended periods of time — flattens the curve of your neck which can lead to poor neurological function from postural alterations.
- When sitting, rest fully on the seat cushion and avoid perching on the front edge of your seat — prevents circulation problems in your thighs and lower legs.
- When using keyboards while seated, ensure that your thighs and forearms are parallel to the floor — minimizes stress and repetitive injuries to hips, knees, elbows, and wrists.
- Train yourself to be ambidextrous when possible — use non-dominant hand/arm, bend on non-dominant leg — balances brain performance, body composition, and flexibility.
- When crouched or cramped in uncomfortable positions, remind yourself to breathe deeply to oxygenate the brain and muscles. This skill also trains you to calm yourself when stressed.
- Maintain healthy blood glucose levels by eating regularly. Pack your own meals and healthy snacks – 1/3 complex carbs, 1/3 protein, 1/3 good fats. Choose protein bars with ≤12 g sugar.
- Weight-lifting and cardio exercise for strength training to increase endurance and resiliency.
- Gentle activities like stretching or restorative Yoga counterbalance walking and standing.
Improving your physical function will lead to improved brain efficiency from enhanced biochemistry, circulation, and digestion.
Some of your mental job responsibilities include:
- Inspecting all aspects of aircraft
- Repetition of tasks and processes
- Constant decision making
- Working in a safety-first, structured environment
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- Quality control analysis and implementation
- Communications skills — reading, speaking, listening
- Face-to-face discussions with group or team
Hydration, ideal food choices, sleep/rest, and thermal stressor recovery are critical components to staying fit mentally and physically. I like to describe the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) as a simplistic yet elegant two-way street — what goes in affects what comes out. This makes a great case for getting good at the basics. Here are some suggestions to improve mental wellness.
Combating stress and staying mentally sharp:
- Consistent hydration — supports attention and mental clarity. Also helps reduce cravings. Strive to drink half your body weight in oz’s of filtered water every day.
- Keep blood glucose levels as flat as possible by eating/snacking every 3-4 hours with healthy food choices — remember, 1/3 complex carbs, 1/3 protein, 1/3 good fats. Promotes mental agility and balances emotions.
- Sleep 7-8 hours each night. Supports better biochemistry through healthier hormone function, memory, information retention, and improved mood.
- Get at least 10-15 minutes of exercise a day, other than your job duties. Even a walk up a flight of stairs can clear your mind and give your brain a much-needed boost.
- Lessen eye strain/fatigue by using sunglasses outdoors to reduce fatigue and UV exposure.
- Lower sound, noise, and interruptions by frequently wearing good ear protection or headset.
Upping your self-care will have immediate positive effects — you’ll feel better and brighter. You’ll also avoid a lot of aches and pains as you continue along your job path and age. All of us over the age of fifty understand the decisions and habits we’ve had (and haven’t had) have either paid off for us or left us aging “normally.” Just because something is “normal” doesn’t mean it’s “natural.” You can invest wisely in your health and wellbeing and enjoy great dividends at an early age.