In my days as EMS system director I had to do quite a bit of psych and stress management on my firefighters and medics. We were living the survivalist lifestyle where every day was TEOTWAWKI for the people we responded to when we were on shift. Humans and animals share a common bond deep in our nervous system. Deep below out intellect and ego we
have two basic modes fight/flight or rest/digest. We live our whole life sliding in between these two areas. When you feel stress form being shot at by terrorists or worrying about your credit card bill the same processes take affect the sympathetic nervous tone increases adrenaline release increases, blood pressure, pulse and breathing rates all rise, pupils dilate blood flows from the digestive organs and rush to the skeletal muscles and brain. Long term living in stress causes a weakened immune system, lack of proper rest, chronic cardiac issues, digestive problems, and increased fat retention or loss. While I have had to deal with crew members who suffered from the opposite of the fight/flight symptoms it was often due to emotional stresses which lead to a chemical/neurological condition known as depression this is in my opinion the most likely problem on this end of the scale. Throwing away all feelings of bravado and coach inspired speeches depression becomes a real medical issue which the patient cannot just “snap out of” in stressful situations. Patients can endanger their teams safety by having lack of mental clarity, disregard for personal or team safety, and sometimes suicidal intentions. There are times when a person may swing between the two extremes of high and low this is known as bi-polar. The patient may seek stressful or dangerous situations and these “adrenaline junkies” if lacking basic responsibility can endanger their team.
Stress and associated adrenaline release is not caused strictly by an immediate threat in humans but can be caused by fear or dwelling on perceived future threats. One of the most powerful chronic stressors is the worry of things that the stressed person feels they have no control over. In some survival situations the loss of radio, Internet, cellular, and normal social networks is a sudden shock. Since you have no idea what is happening away from your direct area of observation the stress can be quite acute. Hindsight 20/20 will also be cause for a stress, replaying a personal failure during an incident or just the priceless item you forgot that only cost a few dollars can cause sleepless nights, you cannot relive the past, analyze for learning purposes and then drop it. In many people stress and the associated symptoms can be mediated with a proper diet including green vegetables and fiber as well as a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic rate exercise daily.
The ideal candidate for stress resistance. Studies show that people who have the following traits will be more resistant to stress disorders and depression following traumatic events. Having a functional relationship with a loving spouse and family is very important. A religious faith which recognizes the creator as having ultimate control for the best of his creatures gives meaning to the temporary suffering we may feel or see. Sense for mission and a clear purpose motivates a team even if they are not sure of all the details for tactical reasons. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Get a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic level exercise (that means hard enough you can’t sing but easy enough that you can talk), a proper diet including green vegetables and fiber avoidance of relying on refined sugar and starch, saturated or animal fats, and processed foods to meet your energy and nutritional needs. Junk food is bad for you and will make surviving harder. Proper amounts sleep and exposure to bright light during the day keep your somatic system in check.
Kol Tov, David