When you react really quick going from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye and you can’t control your anger which is often at home and to the point where you’re yelling at your kids for just being kids. What I hear from many first responders is that they think that they must be having mental health struggles. In today’s episode of the 911 Shift Ready podcast. We are going to be diving deep into why going from zero to a hundred, yelling at your kids, where that anger really comes out that short fuse, does not mean that you have a mental health struggle.
So let’s look at it from this way as well. Let’s say you’re driving and all of a sudden, a deer runs onto the road and you react really quick. Going from zero to a hundred in order to avoid the collision. Would you think that you must be struggling mentally because of how quickly you reacted to get out of the way of that deer? No, you wouldn’t. You’d most likely be after your heart rate went down pretty damn proud of yourself for avoiding a collision. When you react really quick and you go from zero to a hundred on a hot priority call where you could be taking down or disarming a suspect before they were able to shoot. Does that mean that you’re having a mental health struggle? No, it doesn’t. Right?
You need to be able to go from zero to a hundred quickly so often on the job in order to keep you safe. Let’s look at EMS. EMS what if you didn’t react quick enough to get the right meds into a patient? Or fire what if you didn’t notice that a room was about to be engulfed immediately in flames and took the proper actions into order to get you and your team into a safer position? What would happen if you did not react quick?
So here’s the thing, is why do you think that reacting quick, going from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye from calm to yelling at your kids means that you have a mental health struggle? Now it, it does, it sucks to be yelling at your kids. I’ve been in your shoes when I was in my full burnout. It’s where your body can’t manage that stress as much. And you switch so much from zero to a hundred for so many different things that yelling happens, the shame, the guilt I would feel after because it wasn’t like I walked in a room and went, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna go yell at my kids.” No. It was usually the opposite where I’m coming home like “Okay, today’s gonna be different. Today I’m gonna be calmer with them. Today I’m gonna be more patient with them and calmer” but I just couldn’t do it.
And the thing is is that we have this narrative. That is being painted about first responders, that all of your struggles are mental health. So they quite often they’ll give lists too, that if you have one of these, you can’t sleep, your mind won’t shut off. You know where you have these thoughts take you an hour, hour and a half, revolving thoughts. Some of them could be traumas and stressors. Some of them could be thinking about changing the oil in your car. And like your to-do list is just, will not shut off. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s a mental health issue. The anger issues. When there is a guy at work, normally the anger starts happening at home where people don’t see. But if there is set a guy, but it could be one of the females as well. Anyone in your service when you see them losing their shit, think, ‘Oh they have a mental health issue.”
When there’s brain fog or short term memory loss. So you’re taking longer to do your reports. It’s harder to remember all the details when doing your reports, or it takes so much energy to do them. Or at home, you’re chatting with your partner, your spouse, and kind of talking about a honey do list. And you’re like, “Yup, sure. We’re gonna go get that done.” You walk out of the room and you’re like, what the heck did they just ask me? Everything is gone. You start thinking “Mental health issue.” When you have no energy at all, from the moment your eyes open you’re pushing and pushing to get through your day and nothing is helping. The coffees, trying to change your eating, trying to be more active, trying anything you’re like, “Oh shit. This energy, this being so bagged having to push from the moment my eyes open must be a mental health issue.”
And then we get to where you have no more motivation and drive to do anything. You’re not engaged with your family anymore. You may not be engaged at work when you’re not on calls. You may not be able to motivate yourself to do anything anymore. That is often thought of as having a mental health issue. And then stopping working out, “Oh, that guy’s not active anymore. He’s not taking care of himself. They must have a mental health issue.”
We can’t even go so far as drinking. Now there’s a fine line with this because there is the addiction aspect of this one as well. But drinking, it’s interesting that as soon as somebody is drinking more frequently, we think it’s a mental health issue. But from guys that we’ve worked with that’s not always the case. All those sugar cravings, carb cravings can also come on as alcohol cravings. But we instantly don’t even think of that or relate that we just think, “Hmm, this is a mental health issue.” So are you sure that this narrative isn’t because if services focus so much on these traumas and the mental health and they sweep under the rug. All of the hours you’re working the fact that you’re doing shifts, your OT, how hard you’re working and never taking ownership that you are human. And you can only push your body so far before it starts to tell you that it’s had enough.
I’m not convinced that everything is a mental health issue, especially after working with so many first responders since 2018 on the physical side of stress, not the mental side. And when working on the physical side, we see their sleep improve. We see them going from hour, hour and a half, some, two hours to even try to fall asleep to what is healthy of being between five and 15 minutes. They’re able to control their anger. It’s the best feeling when somebody and the first month of my program is like, “Oh, you know, I didn’t yell at my kids as much. I kept my calm, my shit together around the kids this week. And I worked at three days this week.”
It’s so amazing when they can focus and remember their honey do list again. When they’re getting back to how the reports used to be remembering things it’s not taking as much energy. The motivation and drive with this new energy that they’ve got, getting back to things they used to love to do. I remember one guy talking about one of his favorite things used to be to shoot his bow. And he hadn’t done it in years. It had been years since he’d lost that motivation and drive to do things he loved to do. And he messaged in the group one day talking about how he just sat in the backyard for an hour. And shot his bow. He was able to calmly look through the scope. He was able to get on the target like way better than he used to be able to well that he had been able to before he stopped, because he was calm and focused and had the energy.
When guys get back working out and as I mentioned, many do decrease their alcohol consumption. Now some of them there is an addiction there, and that is another solution that they need to go into, but we’re find that many of them where it wasn’t an alcohol addiction. Where it was their physical stress system was so out of whack that it was craving and craving and craving sugars. And alcohol is a sugar that it was having them crave lots of alcohol, that those cravings went away after.
All through teaching you guys how to stay strong through your shifts, what your shifts throw at you, teaching you how to work through nights and days, how to work through the hours, the OT, depending on what throws at you each shift. The admin stressors and more, without working on the therapy side, we have seen changes in all of these things. Not just the anger which begs that question is, how can it be a mental health issue if we’re seeing changes in people who are not going to therapy? Now, this is not a hit on therapy at all. I do believe therapy is a piece of the puzzle for sure processing traumas, those with PTSD hands down therapy is necessary, but we all have shit that’s happened to us in our lives that the therapy is always invaluable. But saying that everything is mental health and all of this yelling at the kids, how can that be?
How can it be that absolutely everything is due to the traumas and the things that you see on the job? How can it not be because of the hours, the OT, the shifts, all of the stressors, the family guilt, all of the things that are happening. How can it not be? So before we start diving into really why the solution is in the yelling and what needs to happen in order to from the physical standpoint, decrease the yelling. I wanted to go into a little bit of a story with you. This one doesn’t actually have the ending that I’d have liked. I’m still hopeful that the ending will come to where I’d like it to be but I think it’s really important for you to hear this story for you to really see how this anger can be affecting things at home as well.
So I got a call from a spouse of an officer who was going to walk out on her husband. And we don’t talk frequently and she was reaching out. She didn’t even know why it was like her one last attempt. And I started asking what was going on and a lot of it was there was so much anger in the house. There was so much yelling, yelling at her, yelling at the kids. At the start of the conversation, she had been wondering what she was doing wrong because everything was being blamed on her. And then not saying that in any situation, you know, there’s always things on both sides. So she knew that she wasn’t perfect by any means, but she was being blamed by for so much at home. And when we started really diving into it and I started asking her more questions. Started asking her about his sleep, about his energy, about the motivation and drive around the house and all kinds of things.
Now, I also know the history of this individual and they definitely did have a very, very large T trauma in their career and had not gone to therapy to deal with it. So when her and I were talking, she started to realize that a lot of his signs and symptoms were that of PTSD. And she was not aware of that, but she started learning as well that there was this other component with anger as well, that has to do with all of the stress adding up over time. And not dealing with it, with everything that was in ways to support his physical stress system as well. Now she knew though, and this is where I’m getting into the story, is that because of things that have happened in the past and because of the group that he does hang out with, they are all a hundred percent that all of this is due to the mental health side.
And she also knew like, I was absolutely willing to go and go speak with him. But she knew that he wouldn’t listen to me because of how much he believed the narrative that everything was mental health. And so we did get somebody else to intervene to talk to him and to get him to understand that he needed to take some action. And he did. He went into therapy and things improved at home with the yelling and with some of it. But mildly, some of it, not all of it that it does. It goes up and down and up and down that he keeps going back to therapy. And that has been this roller coaster going back and forth.
Now throughout all of this time, at the very beginning with this spouse, when I was telling her about, she goes, “Oh, man.” she’s like, “I’m not sleeping. I’m absolutely exhausted. I’m getting short as well. I’m not able to handle as much.” So I started working on her physical stress system with her and she couldn’t believe it. The difference in her sleep in her energy, in her motivation and drive how much calmer she was. She was able to then as well understand when he was having this anger that she knew it wasn’t her. That she wasn’t reacting to it the same either. And we also worked on a lot of different conversation skills in order to diffuse things. But still the anger did happen with him going to therapy still there.
This was like three years ago that this past summer, she called me and she said, “Oh, he’s getting closer”. She’s like, “He just came to me talking about some of the things that you do. And I walked him through understanding that this is what you do.” And it had come from some of the guys that were in this group that he hangs out with where they think everything is mental health. And they started talking about some of the physical things. So he’s getting there, but he’s not there yet.
I hope and pray for this gentleman that be it through another channel, be it through me that he does start working on more of the physical sides of stress because he may lose his family. Because it’s such a rollercoaster up and down. And I only want the best for him that if any of you are listening to this podcast and you are resonating with what I’m saying, but not in resonating with me as a person who you wanna work with that’s fine. The point from all of this is to make sure that you do start being open to the, the fact that not everything is a mental health struggle. Therapy hundred percent has its place, but not with everything.
Mental health is not everything that is going on with you. There is a lot that is going on physically in your bodies that happens. Hits usually five years into the job and or after having kids, gets another hit, where sleep starts to fade short fuse increases, weight gain around your middle, low motivation and drive, injuries creep in, less able to go and work out so much starts happening. Sugar, carb cravings, all of these things start spiraling. And I will not turn away anybody that wants to understand more, ask a lot of questions, get curious. Absolutely get curious. Start interrogating me. I’ve been interrogated by some of the best cops. Ask me any questions that you have in order to help you understand what the difference is between the mental and the physical side.
My focus really has to be on those of you who are ready to start looking outside of the mental health part and looking at at your physical body ’cause this is what is going to help you thrive for the remainder of your career. So let’s dive into what’s really going on. What really has you getting quick and yelling at your kids?
So the quick and dirty of it is that your stress reaction is so strong like we spoke about earlier. You’re living in it and you can’t shut it off. Like we said before, your reactions are so quick and that is what keeps you safe on the job. But it’s also what doesn’t allow you to rest and relax and be calm in the moments where you don’t need to be after a while. The thing is, is that your nervous system is like a muscle. So you have your nervous system that controls your stress response, and you have your nervous system that controls your resting response. And they’re like a muscle. The more you work them, the stronger they get, the quicker they are to react.
So your nervous system that controls to get into that stress state because of your job. Because every single call that you go to is pushing it every single day. On shift even when you are well, especially when you are sitting in your car, trying to do your reports or trying to eat, you need to be on high alert about anything going on around you. When you’re on scene, you need to be high alert, even if it seems like the calmest scene out there.
My husband says he goes to every single call is if there is a gun, ’cause you don’t know the most benign call out there might turn in a blink of an eye. And you need to go from zero to a hundred and react in order to keep yourself safe. So it’s so important to understand that you need that. But if you are never, ever, ever working your resting system, if you’re never getting it so that it’s healing and repairing or getting stronger so that it’s not being overpowered by your stress nervous system then you can’t shut it off and you start yelling at your kids.
So do you see how this is a physical thing? It’s physically your nervous system is boom switches you in. Boom, your kid spills something. Your kid has a loud noise or they’re laughing and giggling over something but super loud that it’s actually overstimulating your stress system and you kick in because these are all things that are moving you into that hypervigilant state and you can’t get out of it. Right? See, that’s a whole physical thing. That is a physical thing happening in your body. It is not a mental thing that is happening there.
Your body mentally does perceive a lot of these stressors. But if it’s so quick to, to turn on then the smallest things, the smallest little things are going to turn it on fast. And so we need to get your resting system strong enough that you can actually decide which ones are warranted to turn on and be hypervigilant to keep you safe. And which ones are not. So you can actually sit there and enjoy your kids. Enjoy the time with them. Be calm around them.
So think of it like this too. If a car is revving its engine every single time that you turn it on, what are you gonna do? Are you gonna say, “Well, this is just how my car is now.”? No. The car literally isn’t safe for your family being or to keep driving. If it just keeps revving really, really high, like that’s gonna mess up your engine. So you go and you get it fixed.
Or if we think of this, one’s a great one actually, because it’s think of an electrical socket. That actually the electrical socket is a wire. Like you’re the nerves in your body. Now let’s say that wire, some of the rubber coating is actually off of it. So we’re now touching that copper piece that is way more susceptible. And this electrical wire is shorting. You wouldn’t leave it and hope that it doesn’t start a fire in your house. Right. You’d fix it. So when your stress nerve is overpowering your resting nerve, then we need to fix it. That’s all there is to it. it is really nothing, there’s no emotion in it. It’s like, “Oh, hey! One of your biceps is stronger than the other.”. Well, let’s, let’s even them out. Right? We’re gonna go to the gym. We’re gonna, you know, work only what the weak one can do in the gym and work it up and only do the same amount on your strong one so it doesn’t keep getting stronger. And then as your weaker one keeps getting stronger and stronger. You just keep adding the same weights to your other one and they even out. You do this in the gym all the time. So you do it with your nervous system, that’s it not a mental health issue?
So this is also why a big section in my program, a really big section is about teaching you to have a strong resting system. I mean, what is it going to cost you to keep operating like this? With an overpowered stress nerve that doesn’t allow you to switch in and out of a resting state that is costing you on the job. It’s costing you at home. So we work on it in the program. That’s a really big part.
Now, the thing though, is that just working your resting system, isn’t going to solve everything because if you’re not getting enough sleep and we’d start diving into sleep deprivation that starts impeding your ability to react appropriately as well. So, if you are not getting good quality sleep, if you’re waking up exhausted, even if you are getting eight, 10 hours of sleep. But if you’re not, if you’re waking up mid sleep, taking hours to fall asleep, any of these things that start decreasing the quality of your sleep, you become sleep deprived. And then you become a lot quicker to react as well and you start getting angry.
So it’s not just training the resting system. We do need to train that resting system, but we also need to start getting your sleep back in check as well. When your sleep is off, your anger, all of these things, you become this like rundown responder, but when we start working to get you 911 shift ready, when we start teaching your body when it’s supposed to sleep and wake based on your schedule. So if you’re working nights, you want it to fall asleep in the morning and wake up in the afternoon with energy. So it’s teaching your body when to sleep, when to wake, making sure you’re getting that quality sleep, so your body can recover no matter how much time you have to sleep. All of these things are really, really important in making sure that you are 911 shift ready. Because if those are not working either, then you still do have a short fuse.
So it’s not necessarily one stop shop. We need to make sure that you’re recovering. We need to make sure you’re sleeping. As well as training that strong resting system. So we have, Jocko Willink. I know I give a lot of examples of him, but he ‘s such an amazing role model when we are looking at being a top leader, being top of your game, and staying in peak condition. So Jocko Willink, talks all the time that knowing when to react quick and when to stop and slow things down can be the difference between life or death in certain situations.
So with that, that begs the question of which one do you wanna be? Do you wanna be the rundown responder? Where you’re struggling to keep your cool, where you can’t switch in and out of a hypervigilant and relaxed state, where your sleep deprived. Is that where you want to be, or do you wanna be the resilient tactical athlete? Where you can keep your cool, not only on the job, but at home. And you can control that switch to react quick and keep yourself safe on the job and when to stop and slow things down and enjoy life with your family.
If you do want to start taking action now go to our 911ShiftReady.com website. There is a free training that I have currently. I don’t know how long it’s gonna be up there. So if you are listening to this in the future, it may not be there, but there is a free training right now about anger and hypervigilance that does dive deeper into the solution than we did go into today. So if you want actually to dive into some action steps, go to that training right now, that’s on 911ShiftReady.com. This will also get you on our mailing list, so you are gonna be one of the first people as well to find it when we open our doors again to our 911 Elite Performance Program.
We are currently focusing on coaching the members in the group and I’m updating the program that’s been running since 2018 with new research that’s come up and learnings on throughout with all of you and how to adapt, especially with the last few years of COVID and things that have gone on. There’s a lot of things that I am improving in the program to help you adapt with how life has adapted for you guys in order to be successfully helping you with your sleep, your hypervigilance, anger, and energy, so that you can peak on shift and relax at home.
So go to 911ShiftReady.com. Get the free training or just join the list and you will find it when we are going to reopen the program. And I will see you in the next episode.