Mental health is only one of five stress triggers that contribute to burnout. The others are a very large piece of the puzzle though often not even considered.  They weaken a first responder’s stress management system, causing many of the same symptoms as mental stress such as:

  • Insomnia – tired and wired, waking mid sleep
  • Exhaustion mentally and physically
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bursts of anger and mood swings
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Brain fog, poor concentration and poor memory
  • And the inability to cope with smaller stressors
  • Digestive issues
  • Reproductive issues and low sex drive
  • Diabetes and other health issues


Many Services that I speak with, have steps in place and referral networks for therapists that specialize in the mental traumas of burnout and PTSD.

There is no denying that the mental toll your job places on you is a factor in burnout and beyond. But focusing only on the mental health aspect can be a crucial mistake and one reason why officers continue to experience burnout.

I also want to start off by saying that it is not your services’ fault.   Your doctor may not even know how to help you. And it’s not their fault either.  


Here is why…

My struggle with burnout went on for 20 years with two very large crashes until I finally figured out what I needed to do to reverse it. I complained to my doctor for years of being absolutely exhausted, having brain fog, and struggling to make it through my day, only to be told there was nothing wrong. My test results were ok and my Dr. then offered a prescription for one symptom or another.   My symptoms were never looked at as a whole. I eventually stopped advocating for myself.

Fast forward to my second crash, 20 years later.

I had gotten married, bought and renovated a house, while working full time hours and in a very short period of time. Also, I had gotten pregnant 3 times in one year with the third producing our first son, then 10 months later I got pregnant with our second.  It was a perfect storm.

Again, I went to my doctor. A different one by this time…  She sent me to a specialist and ran many tests, herself.

By then I was already researching about burnout and was asking her questions.  One visit she told me she’d done some research and admitted that I was showing signs of Addison’s Disease (when your cortisol – stress hormone is functioning lower than 2.5%) and my cortisol test results came back low (less than 10% functioning) but I was still told that I was ok.

So, I had signs of a stress disease, but was ok because the test said so?  


At first I was angry, then frustrated. This was the moment that I realized that our medical system was designed to help people in crisis. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some doctors that understand burnout, but often it is because of a personal situation that forced them to learn about it on top of their training for crisis management.  

Doctors are trained to base their findings on test results and if we fall on the cusp, but do not hit the markers that are required to treat us, people such as myself fall through the cracks.


This is just one of the reasons why the signs of burnout are missed until we are in crisis.  

Also, we all have different signs and symptoms when it comes to burnout because our stress management system manages over 50 hormone responses:

  • Sleep
  • Energy
  • Moods
  • Brain cognition
  • Behaviour
  • Blood sugars
  • Digestion
  • For women our cycle
  • And the list goes on…

How your burnout is presented on the outside is determined by which of your hormones are affected.

This is what burnout can look like:
  • Insomnia – tired and wired, waking mid sleep
  • Exhaustion mentally and physically
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bursts of anger and mood swings
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Brain fog, poor concentration and poor memory
  • And the inability to cope with smaller stressors
  • Digestive issues
  • Reproductive issues and low sex drive
  • Diabetes and other health issues

The more stress we have in our life, the more these hormones are affected and the more symptoms show up.   

In your line of work, you may have more stress triggers going on, than you even realized! The good thing is that many of them can be reduced and some you can even remove from your life for good.

I’m going to break down the 5 stress triggers for you and how they relate to you and your job.


MINDSET

This is where mental health comes in, as well as daily habits. I am sure you can create a list a mile long of the mental stresses you encounter every day; at home and at work. Every shift, when you put on your uniform, you have to mentally prepare for whatever may happen. So much of what you see and do on shift, affects you mentally.   Add in stress from home, and the bucket that holds your stress, overflows.

NUTRITION

There isn’t a lot of information out there that tells you how to eat on your job. It’s mostly for someone with a 9-5, Mon to Fri schedule where they have the luxury of structure and routine. Digestive issues and blood sugar irregularities (hangry, diabetes) are also very common with long term stress. Add all of this together and what the heck should you eat when you actually have a moment get food? What do you do when you can’t eat for long time frames?

Let me tell you, it took years to figure out how to take all of my training as a nutrition coach and work it into my Police Officer husband’s unpredictable schedule.  Between overtime, unknowns on shift, and specialized unit needs…it’s often a guessing game. Still, to this day, curve-balls are thrown in and we have to adapt.

PHYSICAL

Many of the officers that I speak with, found that as they started out in their career, working out relieved their stress.  As the years went on, after working out, they found that the stress relief decreased and was replaced with exhaustion, followed by a short fuse for a few days after.   
When your bucket of stress is full, even the stress of a work out may become too much for your body.   You may find that working out after a certain shift may help your stress, while another one, drains it.  Or, you may find them all difficult depending on how taxed your stress management system already is. Learning what your body needs on a daily basis is key to learning when and how to work out.

It proved how big of a difference eliminating environmental toxins truly made to our health.

ENVIRONMENTAL

Honestly, this is one stressor that I never considered until I had my son, who shares my stress condition, [brought on as a result of me being in full burnout while pregnant with him… (mom guilt?)]  He had severe eczema and was always sick with chest coughs, raspy breathing and fevers as well as anger/tantrums that turned into deep sadness.

In my research, I found out that many of the products that we were using in our house, and on our skin, contained hormone disruptors. This means that that by breathing in or applying to our skin, fake hormones were entering our bodies. Once in our body, they act as imposters for our real hormones and give mixed signals preventing which prevent that function from occurring the way it should. This messes up our moods, blood pressure, digestive system, skin reactions and pretty much every hormone response in our body. Complete chaos. The real hormones are left standing around and our body now thinks that there has been an overproduction, resulting in less hormone production over time.

How every day products have an affect on us…

Recently,  it was proven to me of how much of an affect these products have on us,  when we ran out of our non-toxic dish soap. We had a bottle of palmolive laying around so I decided to use that. My nose started to run and my brain got foggy as soon as I poured it into the water. Then, I got angry!    My husband was there and I started arguing with him. We used to call my anger Medusa. She had not reared her head in quite a while. We both looked at each other in shock as it was such a quick reaction. I instantly dumped the water, washed my hands and got out my tool box of stress relieving remedies. In 10 minutes I was calm again.


My neck relaxed from the tightness that was going up my spine and I could think clearly, my energy came back, and I was calm and rational again. It was crazy! And proved how big of a difference eliminating environmental toxins truly made to our health. And this is one of the easy ones to change as it means buying a different product when you run out of an old one. That’s it!

ILLNESS / INJURY

Every time your body has to heal from an injury or illness, it taxes your stress management system. You will find that often after an injury or big illness you more than likely to get sick. It’s all directly related. Putting measures into place to boost your immune system and support your stress management system, helps you recover faster from injuries and illness without as many repercussions afterwards.  
Those are the 5 stress triggers.   Sleep is often grouped with physical stress triggers, but I am giving it its own category as it is so important.

SHIFT WORK

Not being able to get into a regular sleep cycle confuses your body’s sleep and wake hormones that they eventually do not know when to turn on and when to turn off.   The stress you place on your body with shift work takes such a toll. Shift work alone can burnout your body, as it does not know when to send out sleep or wake hormones. However, setting a routine that you do before you go to sleep and when you wake up, regardless of your shift, that tells your body what it needs to do and when.   

As you can see, all of these stress triggers play an important role when preventing burnout.
All of this is great information, but you are probably asking yourself, “Where do I start?”    

I thought I would help you by putting together some of the first things I have officers do when they begin my Shift Work Cure Program so that you can get started right away without overwhelm.


Click HERE to download your copy of  5 Quick & Simple Sleep Tips that Stop Shift Work Burnout.  


 

Disclaimer

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.

 


Andi Clark is a mom, wife of a Police Officer and the founder of 911 Lifestyle. Also known as The Elite Trainer for Police and First Responders, Andi is an expert in peak performance and how stress physically affects your body.

The one that’s listed in the blog doc is:
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 husbands 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.


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