EMS World

MAR 2018

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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EMSWORLD.com | MARCH 2018 41 mindfulness is the nonjudgmental aware- ness of present-moment experiences. Participants practiced meditation tech- niques designed to increase awareness of present-moment experiences such as thoughts, emotions, and physical sensa- tions. They also learned to use this aware- ness in responding more skillfully to stress in their everyday lives). Participants in the study were "stressed" but otherwise healthy. Researchers took precourse and postcourse MRI scans of subjects and correlated the scans to partici- pants' current perceived levels of stress. At the conclusion of the study, researchers dis- covered a confirmed correlation between stress level scores and a decrease in gray matter density within the right amygdala, without anything significantly changing in the participants' lives in terms of stressors. This demonstrated that neuroplastic changes in the brain are associated with improvements in a psychological mind- set. In other words, if one changes their perception of and reaction to stress, they can change the physical structure of their brain and will be able to respond more effectively with higher-level thinking in the face of stressors. One can train their brain, with both real and perceived stressors, to harness auto- nomic responses and allow the prefrontal cortex to problem-solve. 8 One can practice engaging the cortex and working "from the top down" to condition instincts to react better in the face of fear. Without conscious practice, we can be susceptible to allow- ing our instincts to control fear and stress. The next part of this series will dive into resilience, with specific techniques to prac- tice harnessing stress and even using it to our advantage. Summary With a clinical understanding of the physi- ology of stress and its impacts on both the body and psychological state, we can begin to reduce the stigma of stress and its effects. With this awareness we recognize that our biology is susceptible to stress— and with awareness can come change. We can learn to use biology to our advantage and practice resilience in our workplace and our lives. REFERENCES 1. Tema Conter Memorial Trust. https://www.tema.ca/inthenews. 2. Sofianopoulos S, Williams B, Archer F, Thompson B. The exploration of physical fatigue, sleep and depression in paramedics: A pilot study. Australasian J Paramed, 2011; 9(1). 3. Tsigos C, Kyrou I, Kassi E, Chrousos GP. Stress, Endocrine Physiology and Pathophysiology. In: De Groot LJ, Chrousos G, Dungan K, et al., eds. Endotext. South Dartmouth, MA: MDText.com, 2016. 4. Drewitz-Chesney C. Posttraumatic stress disorder among paramedics: Exploring a new solution with occupational health nurses using the Ottawa Charter as a framework. Workplace Health Saf, 2012 Jun; 60(6): 257–63. 5. Arnsten A. Stress signaling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nat Rev Neurosci, 2009. 6. The science and biology of PTSD. Accessed via www.ptsduk. org/what-is-ptsd/the-science-and-biology-of-ptsd/. 7. Holzel BK, Carmody J, Evans KC, et al. Stress reduction correlates with structural changes in the amygdala. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci, 2010 Mar; 5(1): 11–7. 8. Amen D. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger and Impulsiveness. Harmony Books, 1999. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Veronica Ryl, EMT-P, CP-C, is a Canadian paramedic who has been in the industry for 11 years. She works for a busy metropolitan 9-1-1 service as a community paramedic and on a specialized mental health team. She is also an instructor on mental health readiness. For information on more of Panakeiaʼs lifesaving products: C U T T I N G E D G E P R O D U C T S www.PanakeiaUSA.com • we bring medical innovations to life F o r L i f e ' s N o t S o D u l l M o m e n t s (202) 656-8848 info@PanakeiaUSA.com E d g e P l u s S A R O S B a t t l e f i e l d O x y g e n S y s t e m P e r f o r m a n c e S l e e v e s MORE ONLINE! Find NEMSMA's white paper on stress in EMS at www.emsworld.com/12175365. For More Information Circle 28 on Reader Service Card

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