The Journal of Emergency Medical Services has published the PTSD recovery story of Benjamin Vernon, a paramedic/firefighter in San Diego. Vernon and his partner who was knifed by a bystander during an ordinary call. He describes the attack, recovery and the nightmares – a word he says isn’t strong enough – that followed. Unfortunately, the therapist he saw had never treated a firefighter or a victim of workplace violence.
“On the fifth day, I finally understood suicide,” Vernon writes.
The story ends well – he finds a competent therapist (whom he’s still seeing weekly) and receives EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), which he describes as “the coolest Voodoo.” (It’s also sometimes called “FM” for “F%&#ing Magic.”
If you are in or near Santa Clara, California, registration opens tomorrow for The New Science of Stress, offered by Santa Clara Adult Education.
Class meets for ten Thursday evenings, 7:30-9:00, starting February 16th. Here’s the description.
Stress management is more than just learning to relax. This class will show how insights from cognitive neuroscience and medical research are revealing how to thrive and perform under pressure. Classes will cover how and why stress — at home or at work — doesn’t have to be toxic to your health. Relaxation methods will be described and practiced, along with coping techniques that use beliefs and social habits to balance your mind, nerves and hormones for greater health and performance. Instructor is experienced in public safety and high-tech business, with more than 10 years in crisis intervention and stress management.
Some of the feedback about a recent class I taught (Psychological and Spiritual Care):
- Very informative, great Powerpoint, examples and videos.
- Everything was awesome!
- Professionalism. Good information/topics.
- Easily understood and could apply to helping out a friend as well as somebody in a natural disaster.
- Perfectly balanced with visual aids, group participation and anecdotes. Truly an expert in how to effectively teach on this subject.
The Harvard Business Review has published an article by Michelle Gielan (a positive psychology researcher married to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage), describing how our response to stress matters more than what happened to cause it.
Our perception of an event – what psychologists call appraisal – makes a big difference in our emotional and physical reactions. If we see a threat, our stress response will be negative. If we see a challenge instead, stress is an ally helping us rise to the occasion. Gielan reports on the results of a study by Plasticity Labs that shows how we can change our response. There are three keys, she says.
- Cool under pressure.
- Open communications.
- Active problem-solving.
People with poor stress management fall into two categories, Gielan suggests, which she calls “Venters” and “Five Alarmers.” Venters are the people who are quite open about their stress, but they are not cool under pressure and not good problem-solvers. Five Alarmers also share their stress, but they are better able to take action. However, they make no distinction between small and large stresses. They are headed toward burnout, exhaustion and guilt.
Gielan calls people with a healthy, adaptive response to stress “Calm Responders” – they express their stress, but aren’t overwhelmed by it.
The good news is that we really can change how we respond.