Brain PathWays Blog

Discover Your Brain Strengths to Navigate Life

Emergency First Aid for Air Traffic Controllers

A U.S. Navy air traffic controller watches his...

Image via Wikipedia

Air Traffic Controllers (ATC’s) often find themselves in situations where high stress from rapid changes, multi-tasking, tiredness and unfamiliar circumstances seems to strip away their ability to perform safely and proficiently. What can you do if you are in this situation, unable to take a break and there is no one available to take over? Practical neuroscience provides emergency first aid treatments that will help you recover sufficiently to perform until you can leave or help arrives.

Emergency Stress First Aid

These first aid treatments are simple ways to boost brain performance in emergencies, when challenging life problems, working under tight deadlines, preparing for a test or getting ready to do something important. Telltale signs of a brain under stress include making mistakes, shallow breathing, physical tension, difficultly thinking, fear, anxiety and feeling paralyzed. The choice of which first aid treatment to use obviously needs to fit the situation and available time.

Oxygenate: Deep breathing, walking, stretching, exercise and drinking ice water will increase oxygen to your brain. The most important is deep and rhythmic breathing, as most people tend to hold their breath or breathe shallowly when under high stress. Oxygen is essential for the brain to operate properly. Deep breathing should always be the first step.

Kinesthetic Crossovers: Kinesthetic movements, called “crossovers”, involve direct communication between the two hemispheres to help distribute electrical energy, blood flow and oxygen more evenly in the brain. These exercises are suitable when you are on a break.

  • Take your right or left thumb and hold it in front of your eyes. Trace an imaginary large “figure 8” lying on its side and follow the motion of your thumb with your eyes. Do three to five sequences, or more, in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions.
  • Toss a ball (e.g. Koosh, tennis, foam) from one hand to another, while seated. Place your hands in front of you, palms up and about 24 inches apart. Toss the ball in an arc about 12 to 18 inches high for a minimum of three to five minutes. Start with your eyes open and graduate to doing the exercise with your eyes closed. Try to toss the ball at about one toss per second, to be in rhythm with your heart beat.

Thymus Thump: Research indicates that making a fist and thumping the mid sternum area acts as a “reset button” to restore whole brain functionality. The protocol is five repetitions of five thumps within about 15 – 20 seconds. While this may seem absurd, try it when you are experiencing stress in a non-critical situation and pay attention to the effect.

Peppermint: Research has demonstrated that peppermint helps “perk up” the brain, increasing focus and concentration. Chewing peppermint gum or smelling peppermint essential oil provides an immediate beneficial effect, similar to that of the old-fashioned smelling salts given to people subject to fainting. Several pilots have told the author that they chew peppermint gum in the cockpit, as well as during learning and examinations.

In conclusion, we can all become stressed out to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to think clearly and act proficiently. The author uses these techniques when feeling sleepy driving a car at night, before public speaking and when experiencing writer’s block. You, too, can benefit from these powerful practical neuroscience first aid treatments even if you are not an Air Traffic Controller.

Author Message:
You may not be aware that our organization is a trusted and respected source of reliable practical neuroscience solutions for personal and organizational development.  We have been creating and delivering brain-based human development solutions, since 1992. The message that follows directs you to a quick, easy, and low cost solution you may be searching for.

The “first-aid” methods apply to anyone, in any situation where you are pressed beyond your comfort zone. A BIG factor in accidents and mistakes is when our sensory and cognitive “blind spots” are being called upon. A powerful next step in your journey of self development is discovering how your brain is wired for success and what makes your tick; this includes a comprehensive understanding of your brain strengths and “blind spots.”  Your personalized Brain PathWays report gives you practical neuroscience tools, based on your brain strengths, and “blind spots,” to be the best you can be. The on-line process takes less than 15 minutes, the results last a life time. Click to purchase your Brain PathWays online self-assessment and download your report today.

4 comments on “Emergency First Aid for Air Traffic Controllers

  1. Steve Envis
    December 22, 2011

    This is a very interesting article on why every work place should have a biohazard kit at hand in case on an accident or illness

    • brainpathways
      December 22, 2011

      Thanks Steve. Yes, accidents happen for a variety of reasons and it’s a good idea to have rapid response remediation equipment at hand. It’s also a good idea for individuals to take control of their safety and well being. There are several other articles on this subject on the blog.

      Stephen Hager
      The Hadron Group
      Creators of brain based human development products since 1992

  2. Jeff
    April 10, 2014

    More info on the smelling salts you mentioned here: and actually they review a smelling salts product that has peppermint essential oil built into it: Two birds with one stone?

    • brainpathways
      April 17, 2014

      Thanks Jeff; I did not know that. Interesting, indeed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 990 other subscribers

More from Brain PathWays

Visit us at to discover your unique personal brain strengths and how you can use them to navigate life.

While you're there, sign up to receive Free Daily Messages From Your Brain for fun, fact-filled insights into how your brain works!

%d bloggers like this: