Several research studies have shown us that individuals employed in law enforcement, fire fighting, and other first-responder occupations are at significantly higher risk for degenerative health conditions. Outside of personal injury from physical confrontation or other risk factors, stress could easily be the crux of most degenerative health conditions threatening public servant personnel. Dealing with the effects of job-related stress has traditionally been addressed through psychological counseling. The fundamental defect in this approach stems from neglecting the intrinsic relationship between the mind and the body.
Stress: its so much more than a state of mind.
From a holistic perspective, stress is defined as the phenomenon of bringing the body out of homeostasis. Everything about how the body works revolves around maintaining a stable, relatively constant condition of properties such as temperature, pH, and electrolyte levels. By broadening our definition, we can now begin to understand how stress is related to obesity and other degenerative health conditions beyond depression, divorce, and suicide.
In reality, stress comes from many different origins and stimuli:
1. Physical stress can range from injury and physical exertion to immobility and repetitive use syndrome.
2. Emotional stress is most easily defined as “mental strain”. Psychological stress stems from five different stimuli or conditions:
3. Environmental stress includes climate, air pollution, airborne allergens, etc.
4. Infections are the constant scenario whereby your body is dealing with foreign invaders
5. Poor nutrition, or malnourishment, can occur in cases of insufficient calories or excessive calories. Poor nutrition is the condition whereby at least one nutrient required for any one given metabolic process is absent or available in supplies insufficient to complete any given metabolic process. (eg. Magnesium is needed in over 300 metabolic reactions) Excess amounts of sugars and refined foods, for example, can diminish thiamine, niacin, B12, magnesium, and calcium. Low levels of these nutrients increase nervous-system reactivity, irritability, and nervousness. But even more serious is the realization that poor eating habits in general lead to low concentrations of nutrients in the blood, which can impair brain function.
6. Sleep deprivation comes from inadequate sleep AND imbalanced ratios of the different sleep cycles.
Stress regulates the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The simplest understanding of stress comes from our experience with the “fight-or-flight” response. Responding to stimulus such as traffic, inflammatory emails, domestic violence, and life-threatening situations is no different than the physiological reaction a caveman might have experienced when confronted by a hungry saber-toothed tiger. The caveman was at a bit of an advantage because he either became lunch or he got away: the stress resolved itself. In these community service careers and our hectic public culture, stressors linger. This translates to a chronically overactive sympathetic nervous system.
In plain English, the stress response includes the following physical states:
- Increased heart rate
- Inhibition of digestion
- Constriction of blood vessels (except to peripheral muscles)
- Release stored fats and glucose into the blood
- Inhibition of reproductive systems
- Reduced auditory function (hearing losses)
- Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision
- Reduced immune function
If we take that information a step further, in a situation of chronic stress we see states of hypertension, impotence, low-grade infections and frequent illness, insulin resistance, obesity, and metabolic syndrome – just to name a few.
Degenerative health conditions are nothing more than a systemic breakdown. When the body is no longer able to maintain the tight margins of operations, we slip out of homeostasis. Over extended periods of time, this situation lends to abnormal compensations that can result in cancers, heart disease, depression, obesity, and other degenerative diseases.
There is a clear relationship between stress and health. Psychological stress is still best served through stress management tools and counseling, but the message here is that stress is far more basic to physical health than it often gets credit for. Lifestyle choices around nutrition, sleep, and balance play a significant role in combating the risk factors that plague public servant personnel.
Give us a call today to find out about our FREE First Responder Corporate Wellness Consultation 303-955-8049