The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a crucial system in the body that plays a central role in the stress response. When your brain perceives a threat, the hypothalamus sends a signal to the pituitary gland, which releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the bloodstream. This hormone then stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol and other stress hormones, which prepare the body to respond to the threat.
However, if this system is activated too frequently or for prolonged periods, it can lead to chronic stress, which can have negative effects on the body and brain. For firefighters, who are exposed to frequent and intense stressors, it is essential to take breaks and engage in stress-reducing activities to help regulate the HPA axis and prevent burnout.
By taking time to decompress throughout the day, firefighters can help lower the levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in their system and strengthen their brain's ability to handle stress in the future. Engaging in activities like deep breathing, meditation, or exercise can also help regulate the HPA axis and promote overall well-being. Prioritizing mental health and well-being as a firefighter can lead to better performance on the job and a healthier, happier life.
What are things we can do?
Meditate or do deep breathing exercises to relax and reduce stress
Want more information on meditation? Click below
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Listen to calming music or nature sounds to create a soothing atmosphere
Listening to music you enjoy can help reduce stress by stimulating the release of dopamine, promoting a sense of calm and relaxation. As a firefighter, incorporating music into your stress-reducing activities can improve mood and well-being, leading to better performance and a healthier life.
Binaural Beats Relaxation Examples : Relaxation Music Example:
Wearing Noise cancelling headphones or Noise dampaning ear plugs to lessen the sounds around you
Engage in physical exercise to release endorphins and boost mood
Going for a Hike, Run, Walk anything where you engaging in "Bilateral Stimulation"
Bilateral stimulation involves stimulating both sides of the body to reduce stress and trauma-related symptoms. In a run, moving both arms and legs in a rhythmic pattern can achieve this stimulation, which has been shown to reduce traumatic memories and promote healing. Running also reduces stress and improves overall well-being, making it a beneficial self-care practice for firefighters.
Lift weights or do resistance exercises
Weightlifting can regulate stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, leading to decreased cortisol levels after the workout. Resistance exercise also increases endorphin production, which can reduce anxiety and depression. Incorporating weightlifting into a firefighter's self-care routine can improve their physical and mental well-being, making them better equipped to handle the demands of the job.
Engage in a creative activity, such as drawing or painting, to promote relaxation and reduce stress
Engaging in creative activities can provide a healthy outlet for stress, promote relaxation and calm, and improve mental health. Creative activities can also stimulate the brain, enhance problem-solving, and prevent burnout. For firefighters, who experience frequent stressors, incorporating creative activities into a self-care routine can promote overall well-being and resilience.
Playing a musical instrument
drawing or painting
Build a Puzzle
Adult Coloring books (Click here for free printables)
Adult dot to dot drawing (Click here for free printables)
Socialize with your crew to foster positive relationships and reduce feelings of isolation or loneliness
Social connection provides support, understanding, and belonging, which reduces the negative effects of stress and trauma, promoting resilience. For firefighters, who experience high-stress and traumatic environments, building relationships with colleagues, friends, and family members can provide community and support. Social connection is a crucial component of self-care for firefighters and promotes mental and emotional well-being.
Monday morning hockey
Coffee with a buddy eiter at a cofffee shop or on a hike
Engage in a hobby to promote relaxation and enjoyment
Engaging in present-moment activities like building a puzzle can regulate the stress response by shifting attention away from stressors and increasing dopamine production. These activities can also promote mindfulness, reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression, and improving overall well-being.
fly tying / Fishing
Adult Coloring Book
Build a Puzzle
Practice yoga promote physical / mental relaxation and reduce stress
Yoga is a highly beneficial practice for reducing stress and building resiliency, as it combines physical movement, breath work, and mindfulness. The practice of yoga has been shown to regulate the stress response, reducing the levels of stress hormones in the body and promoting relaxation. Additionally, the focus on breath work and mindfulness can help promote a sense of calm and present-moment awareness, improving mental clarity and reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. By regularly practicing yoga, individuals can build physical and emotional strength, resilience, and an overall sense of well-being.
First responder specific yoga Youtube:
have a yoga you enjoy using? Let us know and we can list it here
Write in a journal to reflect on thoughts / feelings and process emotions
Journaling is a simple yet powerful tool for promoting personal growth and well-being. It helps identify behavior patterns, recognize strengths and weaknesses, and develop coping strategies for stress and challenges. Research has shown that journaling reduces anxiety and depression symptoms, improves mood, and promotes self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
List of the Best Journal apps of 2023 to try out:
Take a nap or rest to recharge and refresh the mind and body
Sleep is crucial for regulating the body's stress response, lowering cortisol levels, and promoting relaxation. Adequate sleep improves mental and emotional well-being, cognitive functioning, and decision-making abilities. Prioritizing sleep is important for firefighters to promote physical and mental health and build resilience.
More sleep info? Click here
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Lets talk about the Science of stress
International Association of Fire Fighters Local 18 / Vancouver Fire Rescue Services