Stress Tips

If you’re travelling with a young child, 
put on your own oxygen mask first, 
and then attend to the child.

This instruction makes perfect sense,
doesn’t it?  

Let’s borrow that concept for a moment.
As an emergency responder, you are constantly attending to others’ needs.
     ◊ What about you? 
     ◊ Are you taking care of yourself?  

Here are some simple ideas that may help you in your day-to-day activities on the job. Of course, you probably already know some of these.  

When faced with stress we can be pushed into fight-or-flight mode. During fight-or-flight, the body re-directs blood flow to the areas needed most for fighting or running away:  the heart, lungs, legs, and arms. The bloodstream is flooded with chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. We are now in attack mode.  

What happens in the brain is also very interesting.
Blood is taken from the coherent thinking part of our brain in the front, to the survival part of the brain at the back (known as the reptilian brain). Our rational mind is disengaged, and our thinking becomes fuzzy. This process can put a normally coherent person into an irrational, agitated, aggressive, uncooperative frenzy.  

There are a couple of little-known sources of muddled thinking that may surprise you.  

A leading cause of confused thinking and fatigue.   If you’re dehydrated by just 5% - your cognitive abilities could be reduced by as much as 30%. Of course, you won’t notice this because it happens so gradually.

Most of the time, our breathing is quite shallow. This results in an inadequate supply of oxygen available for transfer to the blood. That’s not good.  

Here is a simple two-part defensive technique to ensure that fresh oxygenated blood is consistently available to your brain and other essential organs.  

1. Maintain good hydration levels through eating green leafy vegetables and drinking water. Preserving sufficient moisture in the tiny air sacs of the lungs enables more oxygen to pass through to the blood.  

Every now and then (and especially when you are stressed) take three slow deep belly breaths. Four seconds each for:

  Breathe in 
  Hold    Breathe out   Hold

You may increase these time periods as you improve. An added bonus of abdominal breathing is that it relaxes body and mind. Consequently, you will be more in control.  

How about long-term stressors?
Your job is inherently stressful – True?  

In addition to your direct job-related stressors, you may be experiencing personal ongoing stressors like financial challenges, the home-front, or perhaps even career-related issues.

Long-term stress drives us into being stuck in a survival mode. Symptoms include insomnia, illnesses, relationship difficulties, poor decision-making, and the list goes on. If not handled, burnout is unavoidable. Seek professional counseling if you notice these signs of stress.  

Take care of yourself . . .  
     for yourself
     and the thousands who depend on you.



© Walsh Seminars Ltd.  Box 963  Victoria BC  V8W 2R9  Canada