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After she's shared that story, Wimberger has audience members — civilians and officers alike — conduct an experiment: With eyes closed, or staring at a blank area in space, they're asked to think about a stressor. It can be anything — work-related, a relationship problem, financial difficulties. She then asks them to think about any lack of resolution, blame, injustice or emotions that came up when they focused on this stressful issue. In an even, steady voice, Wimberger walks them through the rest of the exercise: "As you bring this situation up for yourself, I want you to notice these areas of your body," she instructs, mentioning many of the areas where people physically manifest stress: between the eyebrows, the jaw, the shoulders, the throat, lower back, chest, gut.
"How many of you had at least one body area react to this stress you were thinking about?" she asks, then inquires about two areas of the body, three, four, all of them. "This is really, really important for you to understand what just happened," she exhorts. "The stress came back. Here's really what you did: Whatever you were thinking about, while it's real, it's not in this room unless it is a physical disease that's active in your body. It exists all the way up in time up until you walked in this room, or it's waiting for you when you leave this room, but it's not here. Your body reacted physically to something that existed either in the past or in the future. You were not right here. This is the crux of stress and PTSD, and all of the ailments that go with that mental state, is that you don't function in present time. You are either rehashing the past or projecting to the future. And the body doesn't know the difference. Your thoughts triggered a biological reaction."
By now, she's usually grabbed the audience. When it's full of cops, she moves on to a free-association exercise she got from Kevin Gilmartin, a famed behavioral consultant for the law-enforcement world: She asks for the first thing that pops into their heads when she says the phrase "Boy Scout leader." The association is inevitably "pedophile."
"When you have to interact in a law-enforcement way with a Boy Scout leader, it's usually because he's a pedophile," she explains to the group. "Your work worldview is warranted. But you still carry that idea with you when you get home. You've got some default thoughts created by your work environment, which are, 'Lots of people are not to be trusted, and because they're not to be trusted, I'm suspicious.' Your default thoughts are consistently in threat mode.
"You just saw when you brought up a stress what it does to your biology," she says. "And now most of your thoughts are thoughts that say to your brain, 'Threat!' Because you are good officers, you are in hyper-vigilant awareness all the time. And that messes with your body."
Before diving into meditation, Wimberger deals with one more topic: brain biology. "These techniques might push you out of your comfort zone," she explains. "But if you understand the basic biology, you will willingly go there, because the discomfort does not outweigh the benefits, by a long shot." Wimberger outlines three areas of the brain: the limbic brain, the neocortex and the prefrontal cortex. The limbic brain is primarily concerned with fear, worry, fight-or-flight reactions, anger and other survival-centered emotions. The neocortex is the logic mind, involved with reasoning, problem-solving, orienting to your environment and analyzing. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that encompasses creativity, awe, inspiration, motivation, connectivity and compassion. "You cannot feel fear, worry, anger or your fight-or-flight response when you're in your prefrontal cortex," she notes.
In a general stress response, the brain detects a threat and signals the nervous system to dump adrenaline and cortisol into your body so that you can quickly react. "This is the thing that helps you draw your gun faster, the thing that drives enhanced peripheral vision and audio ability," Wimberger explains. "It diverts blood from organs to limbs so you can drive or react faster. It gives you a buzz." And your limbic system, needless to say, is fully engaged.
After the buzz, there's a crash to allow the adrenaline and cortisol to dissipate from the body. "The dissipation of that feels terrible," Wimberger acknowledges. "It's necessary, but it feels like complete exhaustion." And officers on the job don't have the luxury of taking a nap in the middle of the day, or even taking a break for an hour to help them recover. Instead, they're on to the next call, or back to the office for paperwork.
This pattern can quickly take a toll on the body, especially when the prefrontal cortex is not being activated; the limbic brain maintains its hold on the nervous system. "That adrenaline twists like torque, and you store it somewhere," Wimberger continues. "Those areas of the body that you felt when you thought about your stressful situation are areas of stored adrenaline torque." And eventually, she says, the inability to rid the body of old stress can lead to disease, depression and sometimes self-inflicted death.
this has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world,do you know how much death they see a year ? and are placed in other stressful situations.
Yes, I do. And I agree, it is one of the hardest jobs in the world. This is why I'm so committed to helping where I can. Thanks for your comment.
Feel free to reach me firstname.lastname@example.org
Every people needs to de-stress themselves one way or another. Good thing there are a lot of de-stressing methods out there to do. Putting yourself into trance is good but it needs a lot of concentration, focus, and repetition.
For this stress relieving system to work, you will have to break the KKK behaviors handed down from the past....YES the DPD WAS the KKK iin the 20s and the 30s in Denver, along with the mayor and the Governor for the State.
It's ingrained; to relieve stress, just pick someone at random, beat the S#it out of them ( or even KILL them ) with no real consequences for your behavior, thanks to the union and the spineless REMFs sitting in the City & County building.
This has the added benefit of the DPD " showing who is the boss in Denver....BOY "
Just like they lynched the Ni....they still have that mentality today, only PC made EVERY CITIZEN a target for a beatdown.
The fact that the city has already shelled out a cool $MIL this year to settle police brutality claims, says much to prove what I have said is true...Checkout the SKINHEAD roster in the DPD....check out the 'roid ragers in the department....check out the deafening silence from the thin blue line...and the threats from the union if someone does try to break that line.
Yes, I'd say your work is cut out for you here in Denver.....
Unless you would rather deal with the " touchy feely " cops up in Boulder....
I'm so excited to get this topic out to the public. Police Stress is considered by some to be an epidemic--so any awareness we can bring to it is much appreciated. Don't hesitate to contact me with direct questions about my email@example.com