I am eternally grateful for having had the tools and knowledge of resilience-building and trauma-resolution through my work as a resilience coach, when I experienced the most traumatic, life-threatening experience of my life. Nothing I experienced during my 25-year career in law enforcement comes close to the events of a gorgeous fall day last November.
The first two articles in The Action of Resilience series introduced the concept of putting action into resilience-building and four factors of the Resilience⁴equation. You can check out Part 1 and Part 2, if you missed them.
The second factor in the equation is what we will be exploring in this article, where:
1. or = Organizational Systems for Resilience
2. pr = Personal Resilience Capacity Building
3. rp = Before the Event, Resilience Preparation
4. rr = After the Event, Resilience Restoration
Formula: (or) x (pr) x (rp) x (rr) = Resilience⁴
pr= Personal Resilience Capacity Building Responsibility
Training, training, and more training is an expected part of being a LEO throughout one’s career.
We learned the proper techniques of shooting, driving, physical methods of arrest, and officer safety in the academy. Learning these skills started out slow…with a step-by-step methodology allowing the brain to begin to understand the ‘why’ and then the ‘how’. Through repeated behavior and new learning you incorporated more practice and technique to allow you to develop the skills you needed to acquire the proficiency to be a safe and effective LE professional.
It was your responsibility to pay attention, learn, and practice.
It continues to be your responsibility to keep those neural pathways strong by practicing those skills on range and training days to keep you proficient.
You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.
~ John Rohn
Your department can bring you all the training and education in the world, but using it is your choice. To build your capacity of resilience and prepare for upcoming stresses or traumatic events, you must make your practice intentional and as important as your other officer safety skills.
You make the decision to build and renew your resilience; no one can do it for you.
When thinking about resilience, many people think about being physically fit and mentally strong. Two other areas of resilience that are important to consider are our emotional and spiritual fitness. And, all four are intertwined. When one area is low on resilience, it makes sense the other areas can be stressed or depleted as well.
There has long been an awareness that in order to be healthy we have to support our bodies by getting adequate rest, proper nutrition, and regular exercise. Good habits and behaviors in this area are necessary for our resilience and vital to our well-being.
Sleep renews our brain and body. During quality sleep is the time our bodies heal and our brains process the experiences of the day preparing us for tomorrow.
Unfortunately, with shift work, overtime, 12-hour shifts, and all the other demands on officers getting the necessary seven to eight hours of quality sleep is a big challenge for many.
Numerous studies have shown being awake for 19 hours cognitively impairs a person the equivalent of a having a BAC of .05 and sleeping less than 4 to 5 hours is equivalent to having a blood alcohol content in excess of the legal limit. We have all most likely investigated the results of a sleepy driver. In his article, Sleep Deprivation: What Does It Mean for Public Safety Officers?, Brian Vila, Ph.D., shares valuable information and techniques for individuals can do to protect their health when working night shift.
In addition to supporting our brains and bodies to be resilient, the more efforts we take to support our mental health the more we build our resilience capacity. Building our resilience capacity allows us to be better equipped to go through and grow through stressful and adverse experiences .
As a resilience coach, I use the tools for resiliency and integration that I teach my clients.
I know with absolute certainty because of my practice and knowledge I was able to experience a terrifying dog mauling last year and recover from the mental and physical injuries and rise up stronger.
Immediately after the attack, while waiting for the ambulance to arrive, I began to think about my brain. How do I go through this unimaginable experience and protect my brain from long-term post-traumatic stress?
Even though, I was seriously injured, I knew I had to begin immediately to protect my mind. I knew this was too big for me to process myself and by the third day after the attack, I had formed my “trauma-resolution” team to help me.
My surviving the dog-mauling had nothing to do with me. I would not have survived if the owner had not taken the action she chose to take to stop her dog.
My rising up stronger and thriving today has everything to do with the practice and knowledge I had before the event and the action I took after the event; factors #3 – (rp) Before the Event, Resilience Preparation, and #4 – (rr) After the Event, Resilience Restoration.
We will look deeper at the tools I used and actions I took in the next article; however, I will share that tapping (Emotional Freedom Techniques/EFT), BEabove Leadership’s® Seven Levels of Effectiveness™ and neuro-integration techniques, and Healing Touch™ were instrumental in being able to process through the mental and emotional trauma, as well as my physical healing.
Knowing and understanding the necessity of the body to express the traumatic experience, in my case a few times of uncontrollable tremoring of my legs, allowed this “weird” response to be a “normal” response.
Rather than believing something was wrong with me, I embraced what my body was doing to heal and allowed the tremoring to be.
This was powerful in my healing.
Although each factor of the Resilience⁴ equation can stand alone, factor #2 – (pr)=Personal Resilience Capacity Building is foundational to increasing the effectiveness of the other factors.
If you’ve never read (or it has been a while since you read) Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl, I would encourage you to read it (again). As a Holocaust survivor and psychologist, Frankl was an incredible authority on resilience and thriving. I will leave you with one of his inspiring quotes:
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor E. Frankl
Take care of yourself. Feed and nurture your mind and body. Learn about your brain. Learn about post-stress growth. Learn about post-traumatic growth. Heal old wounds. Be proactive in building your resilience capacity so every day you rise up stronger.
Shannon King, founder-owner of Matter of the Heart® Coach, works with people who are being impacted by the stresses and demands of their job to help them build resilience and teach them how to better maintain optimal physiological and mental fitness, allowing them to respond more healthily, recover quicker, and perform more effectively in their professional and personal lives. If you would like to learn more about the “Resilience⁴ Rise Up Stronger” Resilience Training program for organizational training or individual coaching, you can contact her here. Visit the ELEVATE Leadership event page for information on Shannon’s annual conference for law enforcement professionals and to learn more about this year’s conference.
Vila, Bryan, Ph.D., (October 27, 2008). Sleep Deprivation: What Does It Mean for Public Safety Officers?
Betz, A. (2012) The Seven Levels of Personal, Group and Organizational Effectiveness.
Frankl, V.E. (2006). Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston, MA. Beacon Press.