As many of you know my husband is a Police Officer at one of the largest services in Canada. One day we were out with a good friend of mine whose husband was an RCMP officer in a small, rural town most of his career.
It’s amazing how the same job can have such different stressors to consider.
Large City First Responder
For instance, being in a large city we do not live in my husband’s division. Most people don’t know that my husband is a Police Officer. He can freely walk down the street. No one pays him any attention or talks about him as we walk by. He does not personally know the people on most of the calls he goes to, which makes it much easier to mentally detach.
There are calls back to back at almost every hour. I’m not sure if there has ever been a shift in his entire career where the queue of calls was empty. Lots of lights and siren calls and overtime is a common occurrence.
He often goes long hours without eating often missing his lunch completely.
One good thing is that backup is often close if he needs.
Small Town First Responder
Whereas my friend said everyone knew him. At one point, when his kids were small, they lived in a house that was attached to the station. People would bang on his door at all hours. His wife constantly tried to keep the kids quiet when people were in his office as there was only a thin wall separating them.
They eventually moved.
My friend’s pace at work was much slower, but he knew most everyone at every call he attended. Everywhere he went – weddings, the gym and everything in between, someone knew him and had an opinion either good or bad.
He didn’t need to be on the road for the night shift, so he slept with his phone beside him. He rarely fell into a deep sleep so that he would not miss when a call came in.
His worst situations were having to arrest kids of people he knew or knock on someone’s door having them think he was there for a friendly visit only to tell them something bad had happened to their loved one. Back up was never just a few minutes away.
Looking at it from the outside you would think that the approach to manage both of their stress would be totally different.
And on one hand you are correct; there are many ways to help deal with each of these in individual ways. But the way their body is managing the stress is ultimately the same.
Same Stress Management System
Your stress management system has no idea where the stress is coming from. Every single stress big or small is sent to your stress management system to process. And each stress is processed the same.
Spilling your coffee, rushing to a 911 call, putting on your uniform and preparing for your day, working 12 hour shifts, financial stress, kids and the list goes on…
Stress hormones are rushed through your body to help you fight off the stress every time that it’s triggered. Your body then turns to glucose to give you fuel to fight or flee. When the coffee is cleaned up or you get to a call that’s cleared before you go there you have to clean up all of these stress and glucose hormones. If you have a long term stress like everyone knowing you in your town and you are not a Fire Fighter (why do they get all the love?), relationship issues, finances, or putting on your uniform then you have these hormones floating around in your body all of the time.
And when the stress is finished they need to be cleaned up.
Over time this takes its toll
Over time your stress management system takes a toll and the symptoms start to creep in…
Tired and wired
Waking Mid Sleep
Constant colds/flus and allergies
Heart Issues and the list goes on…
There are 5 stress triggers. And each stress triggers fills up your bucket of stress until it overflows which starts the cascade of symptoms listed above.
Taking control of as many stress triggers as you can leaves room for you to handle the stresses that are out of your control without filling your bucket.
The only hitch is that your life as a First Responder has most likely pushed your stress management system to its limits.
If this is you, you probably find that eating healthy and working out and trying to implement other healthy lifestyle hack you hear of for people who work a Mon to Fri, 9-5, less stressed job, often do not work. OR you are soooo exhausted and your motivation is so low that you can’t even get started.
If you were someone who used to love working out and being active, it becomes very frustrating. I know I craved that feeling from working out,but no matter how much I tried to get to the gym the feeling wasn’t there anymore.
There is a reason.
When your stress management system is taxed to this point like mine was, then it needs support to get back to full strength before you are able to implement the lifestyle changes and have them be effective.
I swore to myself once I figured out how to reverse my burnout that I would not let anyone else struggle and be frustrated like I was.
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.