"Margaret Heffernan coaches CEOs on how to make work more meaningful and fun. On a recent TED Radio Hour, The Meaning of Work, she discussed the productivity of groups by describing an experiment conducted by evolutionary biologist William Mure that involved chickens. " (Caroll, 2016)
"Mure set out to determine how productive a group could be if filled with only the most productive chickens, called “superchickens” in the experiment. Mure began with one flock of average, generally productive chickens. After some time, Mure took the superchickens out of the average flock and started a “superflock.” Mure easily identified the superchickens—he simply counted the number of eggs laid by each individual chicken. For each generation, Mure selected the most productive chickens from the average flock and moved them into the superflock. After six generations, Mure compared the productivity of the two flocks by counting the total number of eggs laid. The results were astounding." (Caroll, 2016)
"The average, generally productive flock was plump, fully feathered, healthy, and more productive than ever. The superflock, however, had only three surviving chickens—the rest had pecked each other to death." (Carol, 2016)
"The relevance of the experiment to today’s workplace is significant. I’m sure you can look around your office and point out the superchickens or realize for the first time you’re part of a superflock. What are the implications of competing against superchickens or being part of a superflock? " (Caroll, 2016)
"Most importantly, productivity is suppressed because the success of a superchicken depends on the failure of others. Instead of increasing overall productivity through collective effort and collaboration, superchickens seek to increase individual productivity at the expense of the group. The superchickens in Mure’s experiment achieved high productivity rates by literally killing the competition. Superstars in the corporate world achieve individual success through aggressive and coercive tactics, leading to increased dysfunction and waste in the workplace." (Caroll,, 2016)
"With these implications in mind, why does the superchicken model dominate companies? Heffernan reports that it starts early—superchicken parents fight to get their chicks into the gifted and talented group in kindergarten, then the best private schools, and finally Ivy League colleges. By the time a chick enters the corporate world, he or she is a full-blown superchicken groomed to compete in a high-intensity job with a kill-or-be-killed mentality. Performance management systems focused on identifying superchickens (i.e., high potential talent) and evaluation systems with forced rankings only exacerbate the problem. These systems also reinforce the mantra of the superchicken model: others must fail for me to thrive. " (Caroll, 2016)
"Heffernan believes there is another way to manage and motivate people: through social capital that involves building trust within groups of people. Trust takes time, but trust also compounds over time. Teams that work together over time garner more and more social capital, which translates into a new way of working—with increased candor and openness. Social capital turns good ideas into great ones because teams push and challenge each other through honest discussion and collaboration." (Caroll, 2016)
"It seems simple that productivity will increase when people love going to work and the people they work with. It also makes sense that people will work harder when they feel emotionally connected to their work. If you want your workforce to bring its best and do its best, Heffernan says you must speak to something deeper inside people than revenue targets or measurement goals. Create purpose and meaning for employees. My challenge to every organization is to stop creating superchickens and focus on creating a flock in which everyone flourishes. " (Caroll, 2016)
Carroll, H. (Feb 10, 2016) Is the Superchicken Management Model Hurting Your Productivity?https://www.apqc.org/blog/superchicken-management-model-hurting-your-productivity
"Often-ignored but totally necessary, self-care is any action or behavior that helps us avoid triggering health problems (like increasing our risk for heart problems due to excess stress, for example) and benefits us by improving our mental and physical health through better self-esteem, less stress, and overall wellbeing. These behaviors help provide balance in an increasingly over-stimulating world. Self-care makes up an essential part of a healthy lifestyle that keeps us healthy, happy, and more in-tune with our minds and bodies."(Duran, 2015)
"The problem is, we probably aren't doing enough of it."
"Experts suggest we neglect self-care because it can be tough to make healthy changes and manage stress in better ways. Self-care is also sometimes associated with selfishness and lazy, over-indulgent behavior. This mentality might make us feel guilty for thinking we need to take a break from our lives to do something that, simply put, makes us feel better. But ignoring our needs has some dangerous side effects: It makes us more likely to get sick and can make existing conditions worse—not to mention the emotional toll of never taking a break."(Duran, 2015)
"That's why taking the time to check in with your mind and body isn't a bad thing. In fact, researchers believe the pursuit of health and happiness is far from selfish. When we take good care of ourselves, we're likely to see an improvement in many aspects of our lives, including our physical health, relationships, and even our income. Plus, by making the choice to practice self-care, we have a tendency to care more for others—proving its importance for not just ourselves, but the world around us."(Duran, 2015)
"Your Action PlanSince self-care is a very individual thing, there's no set prescription for how or when to do it. That said, mental health professionals recommend taking at least 20 minutes a day to do something for ourselves, which seems pretty darn reasonable to us. Lost for ideas? Don't fret. We've rounded up some sweet strategies that'll help slash stress, boost happiness, and improve total health. Practice any of these self-care behaviors (or any others that occur to you!) daily, weekly, or even hourly—whatever feels best to you."(Duran, 2015)
"1. Get outside.
Ditching the comfort of your home is a great way to improve mental and physical health. Similar to meditation, spending time out of doors benefits the brain. Other research suggests that being outside in nature also makes us feel more alive. Even living in an area with more green space (i.e. parks and gardens) is associated with greater life satisfaction and less mental distress." (Duran, 2015)
"2. Try an outdoor workout.
Consider taking your sweat session into nature, too. Research shows that working out in the Great Outdoors boosts mental health, and may decrease tension, anger, and depression ."(Duran, 2015)
"3. Pay it forward.
By helping others, we actually help ourselves, too. Lending a hand not only boosts mental health, but may also lead to a longer life . Volunteering also positively affects self-confidence, self-esteem, and general wellbeing."(Duran, 2015)
"4. Breathe the right scents.
We know that breathing techniques can help us relax. But what we breathe might be just as important as how we breathe. While the benefits of aromatherapy are debated, research suggests that citrus scents—orange essential oil in particular—can help slash stress and anxiety, and getting a whiff of rosemary may boost memory ."(Duran, 2015)
"5. Stress less.
By now, we all know that stress is really bad for our health. Research suggests that stress may be contagious, and the more stressed we think we are, the worse it might be for our heart health . But between work, relationships, family, and whatever else life throws at us, it’s difficult not to succumb to it. Use these strategies, which range from drinking tea to practicing progressive relaxation, to keep the stress monster at bay."(Duran, 2015)
"6. Be mindful.
Focusing on the present—without judging how we feel and what we think—can be both a liberating and healthy practice. Studies show that getting in-tune with ourselves through mindfulness slashes stress and depression, helps us see ourselves in a truer light, and may even help keep our minds from wandering ."(Duran, 2015)
"7. Be happy!
We all know that happiness feels good, but it’s also great for our health. Research suggests that feeling happy may even prevent disease, including heart disease Fredrickson, B.L., Grewen, K.M., Coffey, K.A., et al. University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013 August 13; 110(33): 13684–13689 . But being happy is easier said than done, right? Turns out there’s actually a simple way to feel more upbeat: Just crack a smile!"(Duran, 2015)
Meditation is proof that it doesn’t take a ton of time to do a mind and body good. Just a few minutes of quieting your mind can help relieve stress . Other benefits include a boost in compassionand emotional stability, and some research suggests that meditating could even keep winter illness at bay . The best part? Its benefits continue even when we’re not meditating—consider it the gift (to yourself) that keeps on giving. Sneak some meditation into day-to-day life with these 10 awesome techniques."(Duran, 2015)
"9. Dance around.
Shaking your booty doesn’t just make for a fit physique. It may also improve both mood and body image, lead to a better outlook, is associated with a lower risk for dementia, and even help you make friends . Consider this your cue for a silly impromptu dance party."(Duran, 2015)
"10. Turn up the tunes.
If you’ve ever noticed that certain songs bring a smile to your face, you’re not alone. As it turns out, science has taken note, too. Research shows that listening to music makes already positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood. Plus, jamming out can also improve heart health ."(Duran, 2015)
"11. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care all throughout the day. Research shows that eating berries boosts brain health while noshing on peppers prevents Parkinson’s . And in case we needed another reason to load up on nature’s goodness, filling up on seven portions of fruits and veggies per day might make us happier." (Duran, 2015)
"12. Swear it off.
Though a potty mouth isn’t appropriate in a lot of scenarios (work… church… on a date… you get the picture), dropping an F-bomb might be an easy way to blow off some steam. Research also shows swearing can reduce physical pain, and may even boost confidence and self-esteem . But, as they say, timing is everything—so be sure to filter your expletives to avoid adding embarrassment to stress."(Duran,2015)
"13. Indulge in some retail therapy.
Shopaholics, rejoice! Hitting the mall can help ease mild depression and make us more confident, according to some researchers. Another study suggests that purchasing new clothes can lift a person’s mood. Science aside, treating yourself to something shiny, special, and new (it doesn’t have to be expensive!) is a pretty surefire way to put a smile on your face."(Duran, 2015)
"14. Get it on.
There are tons of awesome things about sex, even apart from the way it makes us feel. Getting busy can boost the immune system :839-44)). Help to reduce stress, and may even relieve migraine pain—and that’s just to name a few of its health benefits ."(Duran, 2015)
"15. Become a bookworm.
Contrary to what some middle school bullies believe, reading is cool. Plus, it’s actually really good for our health. Research suggests that reading on a regular basis keeps the mind sharp as it ages, and reading fiction in particular makes for more creativityand a more open mind. Cracking open a book may also improve sleep and make us more empathic ."(Duran, 2015)
"16. Laugh out loud.
There’s a reason people say laughter is “the best medicine”: Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health, especially when combined with exercise . Giving into a case of the funnies can improve our overall quality of life, while getting goofy with other people can help us connect with the people we laugh with and foster our relationships. Your plan of action: Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of How I Met Your Mother may actually be good for your heart ."(Duran, 2015)
"17. Look at something cute.
Instant mood booster: looking at pictures of baby animals. Thanks to Pinterest, that’s incredibly easy (Just take a look at this board—it’s chock-full of super cute furry friends.). Plus, browsing through these photos may even help you when you’re on the job. Research suggests it may boost your productivity at work . Just, uh, don’t let the boss catch you."(Duran, 2015)
"18. Get enough Zzz's.
There tons of things that can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, a wild night with friends, or just catching up on Scandal. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity, make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you—even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break."(Duran, 2015)
Some researchers believe that clutter can stress us out and bring us down. On the flip side, sorting through and purging unorganized papers, clothes, knickknacks, or whatever else is crowding our lives may help us be more productive, cheerful, and calmer."(Duran, 2015)
"20. Pound the pavement.
Not only does it torch calories, but running is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety . Long-distance running in particular may even provide pain relief. Exercise in general is linked to decreasing symptoms of depression, so lace up your sneakers the next time you need a mood lift ."(Duran, 2015)
"21. Indulge in a massage.
Set aside some time to experience the complete and total bliss of a massage. It soothes both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress."(Duran, 2015)
Whether you’re the big spoon or little spoon, cuddling is good for you. Studies show that physical contact reduces stress and releases a hormone called oxtocin that boosts happiness."(Duran, 2015)
"23. Get your Om on.
It comes as no surprise that yoga is a healthy practice. It helps relieve anxiety, stress, and depression, all while boosting energy levels and improving our overall sense of well-being. Don’t think you have to commit to a full-length yoga class to reap its health benefits. Just 20 minutes on the mat improves focus and boosts the brain . Try these restorative yoga poses to erase any built-up tension."(Duran, 2015).
These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging, and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level."(Duran, 2015)
"25. Get out of town.
When it comes to taking vacation, most Americans don’t do a lot of it. But skipping out on time away from the 9-to-5 does more harm than good: Studies show that skipping the family vacay is associated with a higher risk of heart disease in both men and women . Whether booking a trip to an exotic location or going somewhere nearby, time away from work can help refresh our focus, and being exposed to a new location or experience may boost creativity. Plus, everyone deserves a break!"(Duran, 2015)
Duran, Alexandra.(2/2015)25 Science-Backed Reasons to Change Your Life By Taking Better Care of Yourself. https://greatist.com/happiness/ways-to-practice-self-care
Something I've always loved about the fire service is the camaraderie. The feeling of being accepted for your contribution as a team member. Whatever your strength is, you bring it and it helps the group. As a group we love this. We love being a mixed bag of interests, specialities, and knowledge. We get free expert advice on mechanics, nutrition, construction, fitness, real-estate... But, these little strengths are more then just added bonuses, they are the glue that make our teams strong. These long shifts give us the opportunity to contribute more then just to our community, it allows us to bond. It allows us to learn to trust each other and in turn work in dynamic teams. We lean on each other for these strengths and combine ideas to rectify problems. Without our diversity we would be inefficient ineffective and not nearly as interesting.
I thought this month would be a good month to reflect on feeling safe in our working relationships and also trusting ourselves and each other. This TED Talk talks about how important trust is in working relationships. Another important piece to this video is that there are leaders in all walks of life. Every one of us has the ability to change the environment in which we work. I hope we all choose to make it better, if not for you...do it for the person to the left and right of you. I hope you enjoy!
Last month we discussed compassion fatigue. We discussed what it is, who has it, and what we can do to get compassion and empathy back in our lives. We know the Vagus Nerve is an important pathway to keeping us resilient at stress by allowing relaxation via the Parasympathetic System. This deescalating system allows us to heal, digest, rest and recover. Doing self work like meditation, Yoga nidra, Coregous ball work, Acupuncture and mindful techniques are all important and necessary to keeping you healthy for the long haul. When we don't "reset" by tapping into the parasympethic system we remain in that state of hyper vigilance. For the long haul, hyper vigilance isn't healthy.
This month I would like to discuss a different type of yoga that you should try. Its called Yoga Nidra, and anyone can do it!
"Yoga Nidra or yogic sleep as it is commonly known, is an immensely powerful meditation technique, and one of the easiest yoga practices to develop and maintain. While the practitioner rests comfortably in savasana (corpse pose), this systematic meditation takes you through the pancha maya kosha (five layers of self), leaving you with a sense of wholeness."(Jeraci, 2018)
As firefighters I think we like to see the EVIDENCE... Where's the proof that this will be worth my time? Well, give me a second. Heres how Yoga Nidra works, and it involves brain waves...
"Described as “dynamic sleep,” the Yoga Nidra practice allows the body to deeply relax while the mind stays inwardly alert. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, who pioneered the practice in the early 1950s from ancient Tantric texts, calls it “reaching the border between waking and sleeping states.” Western medicine would call it the confluence of alpha and delta brainwaves." (Hill, 2017)
"Here’s what’s happening: Over the course of falling asleep, brain waves move from the active, thoughtful beta waves (14-40 Hz), then pass through the relaxed, thoughtless state of alpha waves (9-13 Hz), and enter the slowest frequency of deep sleep, delta waves (1-3 Hz). Yoga Nidra guides practitioners into the “hypnagogic state”—the threshold between alpha and theta waves—the knife’s edge where the body “sleeps” while the mind is lucid. Swami Karma Karuna describes it as a point “beyond the personality, where the logical, analytical aspect of the mind is suspended.” This passive/active state allows access to subconscious memory and repressed experiences—unlike hypnosis where the person is totally inert." (Hill, 2017)
"Yoga Nidra is practiced in a comfortable lying down position. You are guided through a series of breathing exercises and simple instructions. Some of these include visual imagery or a scan of the body, which occupies the mind and prevents it from becoming involved in the usual mind-chatter that absorbs our ordinary consciousness. Within a short time, you become submerged in the alpha state, where brain rhythms drop into the silent space within. Once your body is relaxed and your mind is calm, all energies are focused on the Third Eye.."(Floresta, 2015)
"Researchers concede that the sample sizes are small and more longitudinal studies are needed, but the findings are hopeful. In two separate papers published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology researchers found Yoga Nidra improved blood pressure, heart rate variables, and hormone irregularities in women. Researchers at Shyam Shah Medical College measured fewer fluctuations in blood glucose levels in people with type-2 diabetes after 30 consecutive days of Yoga Nidra practice. All of this comes on the back of numerous studies firmly establishing measurable therapeutic effects of meditation, no matter the method, on everything from metabolic syndrome to clinical depression." (Hill, 2017)
Who's using it?
"Yoga Nidra’s psychological benefits have opened a discussion with wide implications in the study of PTSD. Dr. Amanda Hull, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, is working to integrate Yoga Nidra, acupuncture, and qigong into the VA hospital structure. Alongside Dr. Hull, compelling research is happening at John F. Kennedy University involving Vietnam and Iraq war servicemen with severe PTSD. They reported “reduced rage, anxiety, and emotional reactivity” after eight weeks of regular Yoga Nidra practice. Similarly, at the Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, CA, researchers administered Yoga Nidra twice a week for 10 weeks to women who were victims of rape and military sexual trauma. Their 2014 study published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy “showed significant decreases in negative thoughts of self-blame and depression.”"(Hill, 2017)
"Consenting voices are ringing as far as Silicon Valley. CEO Charlie Kim, CEO of e-commerce company Next Jump, says investment in sleep “is a company problem.” Kim instituted Yoga Nidra company-wide, including offices in London and New York, offering it as “sleep class” every afternoon. Next Jump’s Head of Wellness, Peter Chica, says, “Companies invest in exercise and nutrition programs; it just makes sense to invest in sleep as well.” So, did it work? Sleep class was adopted immediately, Chica reported. “Everyone does it and even friends and family ask to come.” Next Jump employees reported better productivity, focus, and emotional balance. “The early adopters were the program’s best salespeople,” Chica says." (Hill, 2017)
"Stress is the biggest problem of modern life. We carry tensions both within the physical body and on even deeper levels in the subtle bodies which we are not even aware of. While physical tension can be eased by stretching, exercise or massage, subtle tensions are difficult to recognize and even harder to release. Yoga Nidra is a unique method that goes below surface tensions to release and transform stress at its deepest level." (Floresta, 2015)
If you are interested please look into your local yoga studios. If you are local to Marysville, Wa please message me I can get you in touch with our Nidra specialist, Wendy Soper. She has been advocating for Nidra programs in our area and is coordinating with Spark Hot Yoga. www.sparkhotyogastudio.com
Floresta, P. 2015. "Brain Waves and Yoga Nidra". https://paolodafloresta.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/brain-waves-yoga-nidra/
Hill, E. 2017 "How Yoga Nidra works". https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/how-yoga-nidra-works_us_58efcea5e4b048372700d692
Jeraci, A. 2018, "5 Benefits of Yoga Nidra", Yogainternational.com, https://yogainternational.com/article/view/5-benefits-of-yoga-nidra
I think we've all felt it. It's that uncomfortable feeling of empathy absence that you know you should have. That callous feeling that didn't come on overnight, it's been years in the making. It's the under reaction of emotional numbness. Maybe you notice it on a call, after a call, at home when dealing with family. So what exactly is compassion fatigue? What can we do about it? How can we get it back?
"Compassion fatigue, also known as secondary traumatic stress (STS), is a condition characterized by a gradual lessening of compassion over time. It is common among individuals that work directly with trauma victims such as therapists (paid and unpaid), nurses, teachers, psychologists, police officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, animal welfare workers, health unit coordinators and anyone who helps out others, especially family members, relatives, and other informal caregivers of patients suffering from a chronic illness. It was first diagnosed in nurses in the 1950s."(Day, Anderson(2011))
"The nature of some of these professions, combined with one’s life choices, can result in living life in a continually up-regulated state of sympathetic dominance, or the “fight or flight” nervous system."(Andrade, 2017)
What can we do to stay healthy:
"The stress response has been shown to have a similar effect on the brain as trauma and hence practices like interoceptive based yoga, mindfulness, breath, meditation and gratitude practices can be essential part of cultivating resilience. By building one’s own resources they can better meet their environment, and weather the peaks and valleys of life with more presence and connection to one’s true self and state of being."(Andrade, 2017)
Getting in Touch With Your Vagus Nerve
"Another cornerstone to my toolbox is yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep.” Some yoga nidra programs mention that 30 minutes of yoga nidra is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep in terms of brain activity, other say 20 minutes is equivalent to 1 hour, but what is the science behind it? New studies in Copenhagen using brain scans and electroencephalograph (EEG) show that nidra practices increase theta activity, which can improve our intuition and creativity, and it activates different parts of the brain related to emotional, visual and tacticle processing, as well as one’s sense of self." (Andrade, 2017)
"Such areas are often negatively affected by the continual up-regulation of the nervous system which can have unintended impacts over time on our neural pathways. These impacts often feed a cycle of stress, disrupting not only one’s emotional state, but also our immune system, our ability to function in the work place and maintain inter-personal relationships. The result over time can be a narrower window of tolerance and weaker vagal tone." (Andrade, 2017)
"Hence as a person who is often upregulated, another key tool in my toolbox is stimulating the Vagus nerve to downregulate, and strengthening vagal tone. The vagus nerve is not only the longest nerve in the body but it also has one of the most important jobs – it’s the main implementer for the parasympathetic system, or our ‘rest and digest’ system. It innervates the heart and regulates many of the body’s internal organ systems, most of which operate at a subconscious level like digestion, glands, heart, lungs, etc." (Andrade, 2017)
Ways to stimulate the Vagus Nerve
"There are many ways to stimulate the vagus nerve, but one of the more effective ways is to target the stomach where there is the largest body of nerve endings. This can be done by laying on the stomach with a rolled-up blanket or using another implement, such as the Coregous ball, starting with small increments of time and building up from there. Other great ways to stimulate the nerve can be though the ocular endings with eye movements or using an app, or activating the nerve endings in the shoulder – which can be done very easily with an ALPHA ball against a column or an original Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball on a block." (Andrade, 2017)
Over the next few months we will be looking into different ways to activate your Parasympathetic System. The goal is to work with a local yoga instructor, Wendy Soper, and bring Nidra to our members.
Day, Jennifer R.; Anderson, Ruth A. (2011-09-08). "Compassion Fatigue: An Application of the Concept to Informal Caregivers of Family Members with Dementia". Nursing Research and Practice. 2011: 1–10.
Andrade, Samara(2017-04-26)."Self Care Strategies for Aid Workers and First Responders". Tuneup Fitness.com. https://www.tuneupfitness.com/blog/2017/04/26/self-care-strategies-for-aid-workers-and-first-responders/
Happy 2018! To start 2018 we will look at some social networks of a different kind, social networks of forests. Now, I know some might think this is an unlikely comparison. However, as you will see and read, forests do communicate. They communicate and create social networks much like humans. They nurture their young, they give information to other trees, and share their space. They do things very similar to human communities.
This is important to understand because humans need social networks to thrive, to be healthy, and to be happy! One researcher, Suzanne Simard, always believed trees communicated. Maybe not like humans, but she believed they communicated through their roots with help from fungi.
Heres her story,
"Two decades ago, while researching her doctoral thesis, ecologist Suzanne Simard discovered that trees communicate their needs and send each other nutrients via a network of latticed fungi buried in the soil — in other words, she found, they “talk” to each other. Since then, Simard, now at the University of British Columbia, has pioneered further research into how trees converse, including how these fungal filigrees help trees send warning signals about environmental change, search for kin, and transfer their nutrients to neighboring plants before they die."
Simard used radioactive Carbon 13 & 14 to conduct tests to see if trees communicate through these root systems. What she discovered is truly remarkable. Trees send carbon along with other vital information to other trees to help them grow and prosper. Much like human communities. See the video for full details of her experiments she has conducted.
Suzanne SimardSimard’s work has helped change how scientists define interactions between plants. “A forest is a cooperative system,” she said in an interview with Yale Environment 360. “To me, using the language of ‘communication’ made more sense because we were looking at not just resource transfers, but things like defense signaling and kin recognition signaling. We as human beings can relate to this better. If we can relate to it, then we’re going to care about it more. If we care about it more, then we’re going to do a better job of stewarding our landscapes.” "By using phrases like “forest wisdom” and “mother trees” when she speaks about this elaborate system, which she compares to neural networks in human brains,
I hope you enjoy this video and I hope you continue to build your social bonds like our forests.
I listened to a fantastic podcast the other day. It was about Maslow's Hierarchy of needs, taking me right back to college my freshman year. I listened and was intrigued. Maslow proposed the theory that people go through stages of growth throughout life. These stages motivate individuals to progress through to the next tier so that they reach enlightenment.
"Maslow used the terms "physiological", "safety", "belonging" and "love", "esteem", "self-actualization", and "self-transcendence" to describe the pattern that human motivations generally move through. The goal of Maslow's Theory is to attain the sixth level of stage: self transcendent needs."
(M.,, Wills, Evelyn. Theoretical basis for nursing)
Maslow didn't feel psychology was for the ill, he felt it was critical for the wellness of the healthy too. Understanding these stages
could assist individuals with finding happiness. and self exploration.
So this got me thinking about firefighters. The base of this pyramid is physiological needs; SLEEP, SHELTER, NUTRITION. These are the physical requirements needed to fulfill the base of the pyramid. With call volumes increasing, many of these can be challenging on a daily basis. Sleep is an unlikely A LOT of the time. Please remember sleep is essential for your body and you mind. We can't survive without it. Nutritional needs, water, warm clothing...All these are challenging this time of the year.
The next is Safety and Security. When we show up to work, we show up to people's worst days. Unfortunately there has been more violence in our society which leaves people, and especially firefighters, concerned for their own safety. This is a problem. Firefighters have to feel confident and secure to do our job with the professionalism and accuracy.
The third is Love and Belonging. After physiological and safety needs are fulfilled, the third level of human needs is interpersonal and involves feelings of belongingness. "According to Maslow, humans need to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance among their social groups, regardless whether these groups are large or small. For example, some large social groups may include clubs, co-workers, religious groups, professional organizations, sports teams, and gangs. Some examples of small social connections include family members, intimate partners, mentors, colleagues, and confidants. Humans need to love and be loved – both sexually and non-sexually – by others. Many people become susceptible to loneliness, social anxiety, and clinical depression in the absence of this love or belonging element. This need for belonging may overcome the physiological and security needs, depending on the strength of the peer pressure."
(Maslow, A.H. (1943). "A theory of human motivation". Psychological Review. 50 (4): 370–96.)
The fourth is self esteem. ""All humans have a need to feel respected; this includes the need to have self-esteem and self-respect. Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value. Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy. People with low self-esteem often need respect from others; they may feel the need to seek fame or glory. However, fame or glory will not help the person to build their self-esteem until they accept who they are internally. Psychological imbalances such as depression can hinder the person from obtaining a higher level of self-esteem or self-respect."
Lastly, Self Actualization.
"This level of need refers to what a person's full potential is and the realization of that potential. Maslow describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. Maslow believed that to understand this level of need, the person must not only achieve the previous needs, but master them."
Here's the Ted Talk, Listen and enjoy.
Fall is an amazing time of year. My favorite season! The retirement of a garden, the brilliance of the trees, the crunch of leaves, cinamon candles, cooking soul food, football season..etc. What's not to love! There are some things to consider as the days get shorter. For example, our vitamin D absorption goes way down as a result of shortening days and lack of sun light. Did you know Vitamin D deficiency is linked to depression? So is Magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to muscle cramps, heart arrhythmias, mental health issues and even sudden death. It is something that is rarely tested when a patient goes to the doctor for depression. This patient is then put on an antidepressant!
This month we will discuss some things we can do to combat depression as the days get shorter.
First off, let's talk about endorphins.
"Endorphins are among the brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which function to transmit electrical signals within the nervous system. At least 20 types of endorphins have been demonstrated in humans. Endorphins can be found in the pituitary gland, in other parts of the brain, or distributed throughout the nervous system."
Stress and pain are the two most common factors leading to the release of endorphins. Endorphins interact with the opiate receptors in the brain to reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine. In contrast to the opiate drugs, however, activation of the opiate receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.
In addition to decreased feelings of pain, secretion of endorphins leads to feelings of euphoria, modulation of appetite, release of sex hormones, and enhancement of the immune response. With high endorphin levels, we feel less pain and fewer negative effects of stress. Endorphins have been suggested as modulators of the so-called "runner's high" that athletes achieve with prolonged exercise. While the role of endorphins and other compounds as potential triggers of this euphoric response has been debated extensively by doctors and scientists, it is at least known that the body does produce endorphins in response to prolonged, continuous exercise.
Endorphin release varies among individuals. This means that two people who exercise at the same level or suffer the same degree of pain will not necessarily produce similar levels of endorphins. Certain foods, such as chocolate or chili peppers, can also lead to enhanced secretion of endorphins. In the case of chili peppers, the spicier the pepper, the more endorphins are secreted. The release of endorphins upon ingestion of chocolate likely explains the comforting feelings that many people associate with this food and the craving for chocolate in times of stress.
You can also try various activities to increase your body's endorphin levels. Studies of acupuncture and massage therapy have shown that both of these techniques can stimulate endorphin secretion. Sex is also a potent trigger for endorphin release. Finally, the practice of meditation can increase the amount of endorphins released in your body."
Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel, Jr, MD, FACP, FACR
Forest Bathing is not what the literal thought might be. This isn't "skinny dipping". It is in fact a natural immersion that has been shown to lower blood pressure, improve immunity, boost mood, and reduce stress all in the natural elements. Forest Bathing started in Japan in the 1980s. They coined the term Shinrin-yoku — which translates roughly as forest bathing. There is a growing body of evidence that is proving this is a powerful therapeutic tool.
How it works:
A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as α-Pinene and limonene. Incorporating forest bathing trips into a good lifestyle was first proposed in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan. It has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.(wikipedia.com)
"It's not a big surprise that researchers were able to document a decrease in blood pressure among forest bathers. As people begin to relax, parasympathetic nerve activity increases — which can lead to a drop in blood pressure. There's another factor that might help explain the decline in blood pressure: Trees release compounds into the forest air that some researchers think could be beneficial for people. Some of the compounds are very distinctive, such as the scent of cedar. Back in 2009, Japanese scientists published a small study that found inhaling these tree-derived compounds — known as phytoncides — reduced concentrations of stress hormones in men and women and enhanced the activity of white-blood cells known as natural killer cells ."www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/17/536676954/forest-bathing-a-retreat-to-nature-can-boost-immunity-and-mood
The aim of forest bathing is to slow down and become immersed in the natural environment. To allow your senses to take over and allow your body to recover from stress. We live in a beautiful area. I hope you all get a chance to explore the PNW this summer. Here's to forests, cedar smells and fresh air!
By: Ryan Swobody
“Fight or Flight!”… This is typically what we, as EMS providers, think of when referencing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. We were taught through EMT/Paramedic school about how our body reacts in these two different states. This knowledge is incredibly important when treating a patient in the field and delivering them safely to the emergency department. We can also look at these systems in a more personal way. Having a very basic understanding of how our nervous system works, we can leverage its functions and set ourselves up for a long, healthy career.
Culturally, as well as professionally, we live an incredibly up-regulated lifestyle. As a society, we are chronically busy and stressed. Then, we layer this career on top of that. Long hours, increasing call volumes, reduced resources, emergency environments, lack of sleep and mental/emotional trauma keep us chronically “On.” In this state, we are biasing our sympathetic nervous system. This is the system designed to prepare us to “Fight!” Our heartrate goes up, we start moving faster, our focus becomes narrowed…. We feel amped! This is useful when we are preparing to go to work at a structure fire, cut a victim out of a car or anytime we enter a life-threatening atmosphere. A sympathetic response is quick and easy to access. It happens in an instant and is difficult and time consuming to come back down from. The problem here, is that we are not designed to be in this state for a prolonged or chronic timeframe. This is designed to be an acute response to an acute situation. This is not to say that we shouldn’t train for these situations, we just need to be aware that living in this state is detrimental to our health and leads to a host of physical and mental ailments.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the parasympathetic nervous system. This is our down-regulated, relaxed state. A parasympathetic state is the only time that we can recover, regenerate and restore our bodies systems. This is our body searching for homeostasis. Accessing our parasympathetic system is a much slower process and takes a level of focus to initiate and maintain. Sleep, meditation, proper nutrition, quality relationships, light physical activity and developing a positive mental space are the building blocks of a restorative state.
Due to our inherently up-regulated occupation and lifestyle, we must put more of a focus on restorative practices. In order to achieve homeostatic balance, we need to take an introspective, individualized approach. Consider your unique lifestyle and how you can adopt some restorative practices to access your parasympathetic system. When you get back to the station after a run or back home after shift, put a focus on restorative practices. After you have identified a few things that help to bring you back down and feel more centered, practice maintaining that state and developing some endurance in that down-regulated state. Harnessing this ability will lead to improved mental & physical health, decreased stress, improved decision making, stronger focus, ability to cope and healthier relationships. It is easier to refine and control your actions during times of up-regulated scenarios (sympathetic) by developing a more down-regulated lifestyle.
With the current societal climate and the inherent stresses of our occupation, we are already behind the eight-ball. We are at work nearly 1/3 of our lives. Attempting to maintain a sympathetic state over a duration of 20-30 years is a recipe for disaster. If you do not address this imbalance now, you will have to address your broken systems in the future. Take a proactive approach and put a focus on restoration and down-regulation now to avoid excess stress and medical bills in the future.
Beyond the Gear is a informational place where firefighters and their families can read and take steps at living a healthier life. Healthy body starts with a healthy mind. I hope you enjoy.