You know that that coffee or energy drink is going to stop you from getting to sleep, but it’s the only way you can stay awake on shift.
Your mind is screaming at you every single second to pull over and grab the biggest coffee you can find or you are not going to make it.
You are trying with all of your might not give in. But no amount of willpower will allow you to resist.
Eventually the pressure becomes too much and you grab an extra large double double. As soon as you take your first sip your brain calms and your energy picks up for a little bit.
Until it drops soon after again.
And the vicious cycle begins.
This is not your fault and here is why.
Why Willpower Is Not Enough
Back in caveman days crisis moments were dehydration, startiving or being in a dangerous situation like being chased by a lion.
Our stress management system has not adapted over time like most of the rest of our body.
Every stress, big or small elicits the same response.
And when a stress is triggered your body sends out cortisol and other stress hormones to give you strength and energy and glucose hormone for fuel.
You spill your coffee, rush to a 911 call, financial struggles, putting on your uniform and prepare for whatever may happen on shift….
Regardless of the size of stress, your body sends out the same stress response. Stress hormones are released to give you strength and energy to fight the fight and glucose to give you energy to fight or flee.
When the coffee is cleaned up ,or the 911 call is cleared your body then has to clean up all of the hormones that it did not need.
Over time your brain starts to tell your body that it is sending out too many hormones. So, it slows them down and also stores extra glucose around your belly. (if you can’t lose the weight no matter how good your nutrition and exercise is this could be why)
Your body also uses cortisol for daily energy. So when your cortisol slows down your daily energy goes with it.
When your energy is low your brain wants something quick to fix it.
The best choices are healthy fats, lean proteins and vegetables take longer to breakdown and make their way into your body than sugar and caffeine. But your brain isn’t thinking of the one that is the best for you, it wants the fastest acting and doesn’t care about what happens after the fact.
The problem is that caffeine, carbs and sugar stimulate your body to release cortisol. When your brain realizes that more cortisol has been released it slows down the natural production of cortisol further and causes this vicious cycle:
Sugar and caffeine cravings >>> Will power will not let you say no >>> Grab one >>> Quick energy high >>> Fast energy low >>> Cortisol is lowered further making you more tired, brain fog and struggle to function with simple tasks >>> Cravings for sugar and caffeine return to fix the problem…
By the end of your shift your car may resemble a coffee and fast food restaurant and you are more exhausted than ever, but unable to fall asleep.
For some, lifestyle changes may be all you need – hydration, eating to balance your hormones, exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits that take a load of stress off of your body so you can handle the day to day stresses.
But for those who live in a higher stressed state most of their day (like a First Responder) your stress management system may be so taxed that it needs help to support and strengthen it first before you have the energy and strength to start adding in the healthy lifestyle changes.
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.
About the author
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 husband’s 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.