One of the questions I got recently was a very simple one… but it comes with a loaded response. The question was: Can I do it?
With four words, at one syllable each I mount my soap box. And arm the inquirer with a response fit for a novel.
Or maybe not… when I simply reply, “why yes, of course you can do it.”
But do they believe me?
This would be a very short post if you did believe me when I told you that yes, you can do hard things. You can perform first aid in stressful and scary situations. And you can do so in a way that minimizes pain and suffering with an outcome that preserves life, limbs, eyesight, and overall health.
So, brace yourself for my long-winded response.
What if I told you that in all actuality your mindset will make you or break you. Your mindset in a crisis situation is the very key you hold to a successful outcome. And what if I told you that you have the ability to practice this daily. You can practice this concept on your drive to work, when dealing with clients and coworkers, and at home with your loved ones.
The key is in how we manage stress when things don’t go as planned.
Stressful situations result in a very complex biochemical process that is the very reason your heart rate goes up, your palms begin to sweat, and perhaps you begin thinking illogically and irrationally. Your hair might stand up on the back of your neck and your stomach might start doing flips.
This response is absolutely necessary if you are about to be killed by a lion. Which is why we are programmed this way- our ancestors relied on it for survival.
However, in our everyday menial tasks that end up being stressful for one reason or another -- this biochemical response to stress is largely unnecessary. And if you begin the practice of controlling your emotions in stressful situations that are not life or death —this will serve you when life is in fact on the line.
For example: let’s say the menial task is your drive to work. It becomes stressful when you encounter an unanticipated setback- a traffic jam. How you respond to this is completely up to you. You can get angry. You can honk. You can worry about being late. Your heart rate and blood pressure go up. You start your day off with a negative outlook before it has even begun. Or you can breathe, relax, be grateful for the extra time in your vehicle. Look at it as an opportunity to drink coffee- listen to more of your favorite podcast- enjoy the scenery.
I don’t mean to overly simplify the ability to handle stressful situations- but if you practice this on a daily basis this will become habit- and an innate ability to handle anything life throws at you- even in life or death situations.
So keep all this in mind – because from a practical sense 98 percent of the first aid tasks you perform will not be life or death situations. If you have to perform them at all! And maybe all you need to do to be successful while performing first aid is to remember this one fact.
This coupled with the basic knowledge and preparedness might be all you need.
And if you find yourself in a situation where sustaining life is the one goal- those critical and real emergency situations- you can arm your decision making and actions with the knowledge that you can handle anything life will throw at you. Because you effectively manage your stress on a daily basis you can also do so in the most critical time- where a life might be hinging on the very next decision you make.
SO: when you find yourself stressed or in a scary situation use this framework for success, which I call the three B’s:
- BREATHE:This task is underrated and overlooked. But there is once again- a very important and complex biochemical process behind it that is beyond the scope of this article. If you need scientific proof it works simply google it. Three to five deep breaths stimulate the vagal nerve- the very antidote to stress because it lowers the heart rate and blood pressure. You then find yourself thinking clear and making the correct decisions.
- BASICS:remember your ABCs. Your one job is to preserve life. Leave the complex shit to the professionals. Do not get bogged down in complex ideologies and circumstances. Remember that every circumstance is neutral- the confusion and complexity comes when we start telling ourselves STORIES about each individual circumstance. SO: the basics- ask yourself- is the AIRWAY open? Is the patient BREATHING? What’s the status of their CIRCULATORY system in asking- is there a pulse? Are they bleeding? A-B-C. In that order. Every time. What you do next will be what you already know and have studied- because the reality is—you need to be armed with knowledge to handle these situations and have done the homework beforehand.
- BAIL:Once you have addressed the basics you need to do everything in your power to bail. Quickly, efficiently, and safely. Bail might look like a 10 minute hike. Or it might look like a 5 hour trek until you can reach cell phone reception to call for help. Whatever it looks like your focus is maintaining the BASICS while you evacuate and remembering to BREATHE when you feel your stress levels rising.
SO breathe- basics- bail. And it boils down to mindset- which gives you the clarity to act in a way that gives you the best chance of success. What does success look like? Doing everything you can to maintain life. At the end of the day you just do the best you can. Life happens, accidents happen. If you did your very best- if you acted instead of freaking out- crying- going into the fetal position- then you can sleep soundly at night.
A summation: handling stress efficiently is a daily practice you implement at work, home, and in life in general. This daily practice will SERVE you when shit really hits the fan. Don’t ignore it. Arm yourself with the knowledge to know how to act in stressful situations. Use the three B’s when you are thrown a curve ball and a life is in your hands.
And be fearless when you get out there and explore more with your 4-legged adventure pal.
Libbie Fort, DVM