PTSD, Post traumatic stress disorder, is an anxiety disorder that affects many veterans who have seen or lived through a dangerous or traumatic event.
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Mind/Body Connection: How Your Emotions Affect Your Health
What is good emotional health?
People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. They feel good about themselves and have healthy relationships.
However, many things that happen in your life can disrupt your emotional health and lead to strong feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety. These things include:
Being laid off from your job
Having a child leave or return home
Dealing with the death of a loved one
Getting divorced or married
Suffering an illness or an injury
Getting a job promotion
Experiencing money problems
Moving to a new home
Having a baby
“Good” changes can be just as stressful as “bad” changes.
How can my emotions affect my health?
Your body responds to the way you think, feel and act. This is often called the “mind/body connection.” When you are stressed, anxious or upset, your body tries to tell you that something isn’t right. For example, high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer might develop after a particularly stressful event, such as the death of a loved one. The following can be physical signs that your emotional health is out of balance:
Change in appetite
Constipation or diarrhea
General aches and pains
High blood pressure
Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
Palpitations (the feeling that your heart is racing)
Shortness of breath
Weight gain or loss
Poor emotional health can weaken your body's immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. Also, when you are feeling stressed, anxious or upset, you may not take care of your health as well as you should. You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicine that your doctor prescribes. Abuse of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs may also be a sign of poor emotional health.
Why does my doctor need to know about my emotions?
You may not be used to talking to your doctor about your feelings or problems in your personal life. But remember, he or she can’t always tell that you’re feeling stressed, anxious or upset just by looking at you. It’s important to be honest with your doctor if you are having these feelings.
First, he or she will need to make sure that other health problems aren’t causing your physical symptoms. If your symptoms aren’t caused by other health problems, you and your doctor can address the emotional causes of your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest ways to treat your physical symptoms while you work together to improve your emotional health.
If your negative feelings don’t go away and are so strong that they keep you from enjoying life, it’s especially important for you to talk to your doctor. You may have what doctors call “major depression.” Depression is a medical illness that can be treated with individualized counseling, medicine or with both.
How can I improve my emotional health?
First, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. The following are some other helpful tips.
Express your feelings in appropriate ways. If feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety are causing physical problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse. It’s OK to let your loved ones know when something is bothering you. However, keep in mind that your family and friends may not be able to help you deal with your feelings appropriately. At these times, ask someone outside the situation--such as your family doctor, a counselor or a religious advisor--for advice and support to help you improve your emotional health.
Live a balanced life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school or home that lead to negative feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be happy when you feel stressed, anxious or upset. It’s important to deal with these negative feelings, but try to focus on the positive things in your life too. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.
Develop resilience. People with resilience are able to cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned and strengthened with different strategies. These include having social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change and keeping things in perspective.
Calm your mind and body. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, are useful ways to bring your emotions into balance. Meditation is a form of guided thought. It can take many forms. For example, you may do it by exercising, stretching or breathing deeply. Ask your family doctor for advice about relaxation methods.
Take care of yourself. To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercising to relieve pent-up tension. Avoid overeating and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol just causes other problems, such as family and health problems.
Nutrition and the Fire Service
Being a firefighter means being exposed to high physical and psychological demands. The fuel necessary to meet these demands is found in an individual’s diet. To improve the quality of life of all uniformed personnel, it’s important for firefighters to take part in a wellness/fitness program such as the Fire Service Joint Labor-Management Wellness/Fitness Initiative (WFI).
For information on what other departments are doing for their wellness-fitness programs, including nutrition, also visit the IAFF/IAFC WFI Resource.
Nutrition is one component of a wellness program. Part of staying healthy is learning what to eat and sustaining a well-balanced diet. This in turn can help strengthen the immune system, boost energy levels, enhance recovery and fuel the body for strenuous work.
It can help firefighters become more physically capable of withstanding the stress and demands of the job and enhance their performance and quality of life.
More firefighters have died from heart-related problems than from any other occupational hazard. Proper nutrition plays a significant role in preventing long-term diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer.
There are six major classes of nutrients—life-sustaining substances—found in food:
Normal healthy adults of average size who engage in physical activity should consume a certain amount and percentage of each major nutrient each day. Following is a breakdown of each major nutrient.
Carbohydrates are a major source of human energy and should make up 55-65f your daily caloric intake—a minimum of 125 grams, optimal 350 to 400 grams.
Proteins are basic components of all body cells and essential for building and repairing tissue, regulating body functions and providing energy and heat. Daily diet should consist of 12 to 20f caloric intake as protein—approximately 50 to 70 grams—depending on body size.
Fats provide the most concentrated form of energy, maintain body temperature by providing insulation, aid in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and cushion organs and bones. Daily diet should consist of approximately 30 to 65 grams, depending on caloric consumption, or 25 to 30f caloric intake from fat. Less than 10hould come from saturated fats, which raise the level of cholesterol in your blood.
Vitamins are important for metabolism, tissue building and regulating body processes. Specific amounts are listed in the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA).
Minerals regulate body fluids, assist in various body functions and contribute to growth. Specific amounts are listed in the RDA.
Water is essential for the digestion of food, it helps body tissues absorb nutrients and it helps move waste material through the body. It’s recommended that everyone should drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses a day.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, MyPyramid and Dietary Reference Intakes are three government nutritional resources and guidelines for eating healthy and developing good dietary habits. They provide science-based recommendations to promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.
It’s also important to know how to read food labels and understand nutrition facts. The FDA provides some good online educational tools for understanding food labels. A nutrition label provides important information, such as serving size, calories, nutrient information and percentage of daily value based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Try to limit the amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. These nutrients are listed towards the top of the label.
Planning to have available a variety of quality foods can reduce the potential for unhealthy eating behaviors. A good resource for healthy recipes and nutrition tips is the IAFF Fit to Survive Website and Menu Planner. The Menu Planner provides recipes with complete nutrition information for each day, week and month. Each day’s meals add up to 2,200 calories.
Since firefighters tend to have unpredictable schedules, it’s important to be educated on what healthy options are available at fast-food restaurants. You may be surprised that a grilled chicken sandwich from McDonalds is packed with 1190 mg of sodium, which is almost half of the 2400 mg or less recommended daily allowance. This is just one example of the kind of information firefighters should be armed with before making their meal decisions.
On the Fit to Survive website, you’ll also find other tips for making the best food choices when eating on the run. You can also take a Fire Drill quiz to test your nutrition knowledge and read other health facts related to the topic.
Along with these resources, you can reach out to a peer fitness trainer (PFT) certified through the Fire Service Peer Fitness Trainer Certification Program for more guidance. PFTs are certified fitness trainers with the skills and knowledge to address the health and fitness needs of the fire service. They can answer basic nutrition questions and lead you in the right direction.
If you want a detailed nutrition plan, find a certified dietician. A dietician is an expert in food and nutrition and can provide individual dietary consultations, help develop modified diets and provide specific nutritional education.
Courtney Fulton is a health & safety assistant in the IAFF Department of Occupational Health & Safety. She helps administer the IAFF Fit to Survive website.
What are psychosocial treatments?
Did you sleep well last night? If not, you may be at risk for more than just a bad mood. Like good nutrition and exercise, sleep is essential to mental and physical well-being. Chronic lack of sleep impairs performance, contributes to serious health problems, and may even shorten life-span. In an age of increased emphasis on firefighter health and safety, the importance of sleep should not be minimized...
Major; Unipolar depression; Major depressive disorder Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this Way at one time or another for short periods. True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for Weeks or longer. Causes, incidence, and risk factors The exact cause of depression is not known. Many researchers believe it is caused by chemical changes in the brain.
Mental health issues, especially when chronic or recurring, can be debilitating. Your body can respond physically to depression and anxiety much like it does to a physical illness. Not only that, but often mental health issues can actually be caused by a physical condition. So, the first person to see if you think are experiencing mental health issues is your primary care doctor.
Physical and emotional health can be very closely tied together. When visiting a Physician, First, he or she will need to make sure that other health problems aren’t causing your physical symptoms. If your symptoms aren’t caused by other health problems, you and your doctor can address the emotional causes of your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest ways to treat your physical symptoms While you work together to improve your emotional health.
FIREFIGHTER EXPOSURE TO SMOKE PARTICULATES
November 9, 2010 | "firefighter safety", "health and safety", building construction, Christopher Naum, Codes, construction, dynamics, fire behavior, Fire Protection Engineering, firefighter-safety-health, fires, health, Recommendations, Reports, research, UL | Christopher Naum | No Comments
Firefighter Exposure to Smoke Particulates
What You Should Know About Fire Fighters and Cancer
Fire fighters are not only at risk when they respond to a fire or medical emergency, but cancer is threatening their well- being in alarming numbers.
Cancer rates run statistically higher for fire fighters compared to the general North American population.
The IAFF is deeply concerned and committed about protecting its members from the dangers that fire fighters face including occupational diseases.