There are some jobs out there that require us to give over part of ourselves temporarily or permanently. First responders are required to do this to some extent each shift. In order to perform their roles in a safe way, the brain and body work together to activate one’s stress response so that the person is able to be ready for action. While this works and is necessary in the moment of a crisis, it does not always transfer well to civilian life over time.
Sometimes, after repeated exposures to traumatic events, whether you are an observer, key helper, or a person dealing with the aftermaths of such events, it becomes difficult for your brain and body to fully relax. The brain and body essentially adapt to a new baseline for stress perception, because it is necessary for the job at hand.
There are many ways in which a first responder may notice some interpersonal struggles. Some major concerns tend to be sleep difficulties, nightmares, difficulty relaxing, trouble focusing and feeling tense or on edge.
If you are a first responder and feel like you may be struggling, it might be your turn to be on the receiving end of help. Even though there is not much flying happening these days, referencing the oxygen mask protocol is a helpful metaphor in this case. We must put our own mask on before helping others with theirs; to be the most useful to other people, we have to help ourselves first.
This type of talk therapy could involve exposure therapy, systematic desensitization, mindfulness techniques and/or cognitive behavioural therapy depending on the specific person seeking treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR employs a body-based technique called bilateral stimulation during which a therapist will guide a client through eye movements or taps which allows the brain to shift the improperly stored trauma memory to a more functional part of the brain. This shift removes the intensity of the trauma memory, allowing the person to react in the moment without the past interfering and taking over.
Flash Technique Therapy
Flash Technique (FT) is a recently developed therapeutic intervention for reducing the disturbance associated with traumatic or other distressing memories. Unlike many conventional trauma therapy interventions, FT is a minimally intrusive option that does not require the client to consciously engage with the traumatic memory. This allows the client to process traumatic memories without feeling distress.
NeurOptimal® measures electrical activity in the brain in real time. It is like a software scan of your central nervous system’s neural network and with each session, your brain learns a little more about itself. It is designed to help promote a flexible and resilient mindset.