Have you ever wondered why writing reports or making a simple sandwich at home takes so much time and energy from you whereas being in the middle of a crisis at work as a First Responder you are in a zone, have a clear brain and are energized?
It was such a mystery as to why the tasks that appeared to need such little energy took the most out of me.
That was until I learned about how our body manages stress worked and was able to fix the problem. Now errands and simple tasks are completed in record time giving me more time in my day to do the things I love.
Why this happens?
When we are in the middle of a crisis our fight or flight system kicks in. Answering a 911 call, rushing to that call, walking into a burning building, on scene at an accident or taking down a suspect.
WIN Strategy. Pick the priority. Deal with it then ask yourself What Is Next?
You do not need to look at the big picture and forward think about what will happen to the occupants after the fire is out, or the cars involved in the accident, or how long the suspect will be in questioning.
Your job at that moment is to pull out your tactical skills that you have practiced over and over again to the point where they have become second nature to you and instinct takes over.
Deal with the matter at hand to solve the problem and make sure everyone gets out safe.
Your body helps with this
It tenses and becomes more alert.
More blood is pumped and nerves activated in your arms and legs to give you strength, power and quicker reactions.
Blood pressure increases and pupils dilate.
Breathing gets shallow
Digestion slows down as well as other organs so you can use that energy for the task at hand.
All of this so that you are ready to fight or flee from the situation.
You are probably thinking to yourself. This isn’t new information. I already know what happens when I am rushing to a call.
If so, that’s great. But….
Have you ever sat back to think about what happens in your body after the crisis is over?
All of the hormones released to give you bursts of energy and stamina. What happens to them?
And how does your body function when you are not in fight or flight?
These are great questions I am often asked in my 911 Stress Management FB Group.
And they are the reason why you struggle to do reports, make a sandwich and have simple conversations…
In your line of work your body is constantly in a state of fight or flight.
When your brain perceives a stress it sends the same reaction regardless if you are putting on your uniform and preparing for whatever may come on shift or rushing to a mass casualty situation.
The crisis finishes and your body has to clean up all of the hormones floating around that weren’t needed to give you energy, stamina, fuel and more…
When you have more floating around in your brain you get what I call brain fog. And simple tasks become so difficult to figure out because you are in a forward thinking mode still AND which work great in a crisis, but trying to think of multiple steps to make a sandwich or write a report trying to think of every detail that happened is not what your brain is capable of in that state.
(For a more in depth deep dive into how your stress system affects more than your thinking – sleep, moods, digestion, ability to work out – read the blog Not All First Responders Have A Mental Health Issue )
Over time as well, your brain makes an executive decision that you have too many stress hormones floating around in your brain and body and it starts to decrease how often it sends a signal out them out.
It starts by decreasing the hormones for day to day activities. Your stress hormones also give you basic energy for day to day activities, cognitive thinking, and fuel regulation.
As these decrease so does your energy and ability to perform basic tasks.
It is possible to reduce the amount of time your body spends in a fight or flight state and support your stress management system for the situations that are out of your control by being proactive and training yourself like a professional athlete.
When an athlete gets to a certain level they build a team around them to teach them how to handle the stresses of the job.
They have a trainer on and off the court/field, nutrition, physio and mindset coaches.
They need to be physically and mentally ready for the game winning shot and learn how to handle it mentally if they make that shot or not so they can come back the next moment at their best.
If they end up on the DL they risk losing their job, so they have as much in place before hand to prevent it from happening and if it does, they have a team that knows them well and can get them back in the lineup as fast as possible.
You push your mind and body more than a professional athlete each and every shift.
It only makes sense to build yourself the same support so that you can get a solid sleep on any shift schedule, wake with energy, be calm and happy, peak during crisis, recover after and have energy and brain power left for your family and things you love to do.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle. Also known as The Elite Trainer for Police and First Responders, Andi is an expert in peak performance and how stress physically affects your body.
The one that’s listed in the blog doc is:
Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle.
Andi has a background in athletics including a 25+yr career as a personal trainer, nutrition and mindset coach to athletes and stressed out high end executives.
Being healthy and active was what she lived for. Until her body started waking absolutely exhausted, workouts become something to push through instead of enjoy. A short fuse crept in, motivation left and injuries seemed to be a part of life. All of this added up to the point that she had to stop all activity altogether.
Doctors, specialists and prescriptions were never able to fix the problem.
Once Andi realized she had a genetic stress condition that puts her body into an increased stress response state all the time (similar to what Police Officers and First Responders experience when they put on their uniform and have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen in their day) was she able to figure out what was happening and how to reverse it.
Through years of research and studying, Andi formulated a completely different way to thrive when your body is always functioning at higher than usual stress levels. One where it is possible to reverse and prevent an officer from getting to a point where they struggle to get through their days by taking a preventative approach instead of a reactive one. And one that reduces the negative effects of shift work on the body.
Through her husbands career as an officer her focus has been on preventing burnout, exhaustion and a tanked immune system that she knew can result from high levels of stress that are out of your control.
As she watched his co-workers struggle with everything from sleep, exhaustion and anger leading to divorce, PTSD and even suicide it became apparent how LIFE-SAVING the foundations she was laying down for her husband actually were, because not only was he tolerating the shiftwork lifestyle, he was thriving in it.
Andi created 911 Lifestyle once she realized the strategies her husband was using MUST become available to all Police Officers and First Responders so they can peak during crisis, recover quickly after, have energy left over for their families and become the Elite First Responders that they were born to be.