IMSAFE is a mnemonic device for pilots to check in with their own well being before they fly.  It stands for Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, and Emotion.  As passengers when we fly, most of us are aware there is a flight check to determine whether the plane is safe.  I’d never realized there is a protocol (at least for private pilots) to check in with themselves.

IMSAFE Meaning

The breakdown might seem obvious, but illness looks to see if you feel sick, medication ensures you have taken any prescription meds you need and that you haven’t taken any pills you shouldn’t before flying, stress asks pilots to assess whether they are overwhelmed by life let alone flying, alcohol is a reminder to make sure you’ve had none in at least 8 hours, fatigue makes you review your sleep, and emotion requires the pilot to once again (like stress) check in with her mental state.  (In the navy E stands for Eat—whether or not you’ve eaten recently).

Food matters.  Amelia Earhart mentioned a pilot needed to be fed enough to “prevent fatigue but not enough to induce drowsiness”—a difficult balance to achieve because you can’t exercise in a cockpit.  She joked, “Probably football players are easier to feed than pilots.”  Certainly, the consequences are greater.

IMSAFE in Life

When you consider how important this seems for a pilot, you start to wonder as the pilots of our own body, why aren’t we taught to do a self check on a more regular basis.  Why don’t we all wake up in the morning and question whether IMSAFE?  Or some similar concept.

What would be some key points to take stock in on a daily basis?  Our stress level and emotions would be good.  Our physical well being.  Is your body stiff, in pain, or feeling great.  Are you thirsty, hungry, tired?  If we made note of how we feel, we might actually be able to take some time to give ourselves something we need.  Sometimes life and our daily habits (by now conducted on autopilot) won’t allow for much alteration.

We have to get up and get to work.  In our rush, we aren’t always great about taking stock in the function of all our systems.  And, one of the truly spectacular things about the human body is that we can get through life without accessing everything that impacts us all the time.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the best way to go through life.

Once in a while (maybe even daily), it’s probably good to question whether IMSAFE.  What feedback would you want to consider before starting your day?

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