When living in Seattle, we paid the sanitation service based only on the size of our garbage bin because recycle and yard waste were picked up free of charge, regardless of size. That system rewards homeowner reduction of nonrecyclable and nonbiodegradable waste - aka garbage out. Similarly, when we apply better stress (discussed here in previous post: “Garbage In”), we have less trash to kick to the curb and more stimuli to drive positive adaptation.
How do we take out the trash while maximizing adaptation potential? RESET.
Within Sleep, you have quality, quantity, and consistency. Ideally, we’d consistently enjoy sufficient quantities of high quality sleep. But most of us live in the real world. I exercised decent sleep hygiene last night and it still took me almost three hours to fall asleep because my mind was in overdrive, thinking about the business and remaining home renovations. Luckily, I still enjoyed QUALITY sleep. Also, while sleep is likely our most important piece of reset, at least I invested wisely in the others yesterday so the day was not a total loss.
If you’re deployed on a reverse schedule or a first responder working shifts, your sleep is going to suffer - We get that! We just want to make sure you’re still making an effort to maximize sleep as much as possible while also controlling the other controllable components of your reset strategy.
Within Fuel, you have hydration, macro, and micronutrients. Within tactical settings, you often experience barriers to ideal fuel consumption. As we say within our certification course, tactical meals can be:
Gas Station Snacks
On the Go
Most of these “meal” settings are far from ideal. However, most often present middle of the road options that can still positively contribute to resetting effectively. Dietitian Megan Lautz of Rescue RD shares countless common sense infographics on better (even when not best) meal and snack options for your tactical reality. You can find them on her Instagram HERE or her LinkedIn HERE.
Attention is nothing more than mindfulness - the ability to insert a pause that allows for thoughtful responses instead of haphazard reactions. Taking some time to reset through attention can be especially valuable when sleep is suffering. It can be as simple as a forceful exhale and as extensive as stress exposure training. Because I shorted my sleep last night, I added in some midday quiet wakefulness today with a goal of mental refreshment and hopefully less risk of delaying tonight’s sleep onset. Quiet wakefulness is nothing more than resting consciously with your eyes closed, extremely similar to practicing meditation.
Outdoor and social experiences, or deliberate exercise all provide an Activity reset. Keep in mind that one person’s reset could be another person’s stressor, and vice versa. Also, some activity comes with a tradeoff. You might be social over some beers and BBQ but that might come at a cost to fuel and sleep. RESET has a physical and psychological component to it. Some forms of activity might give you a mental reprieve but still take a physical toll.
Quite honestly, we were almost shocked by how little evidence there is to support most commercially available tools as convincingly effective recovery mechanisms. That said, they still have their place. Keep in mind two things: 1. The Placebo Effect - We hesitate to present research that questions the efficacy of someone’s preferred tool because his or her belief that it works can in fact be a reason it truly works. 2. Conversation Starter - Someone’s investment in a recovery tool shows that they likely value the importance of reset. Use that opening as an opportunity to influence them toward better supported strategies like sleep, fuel, attention, and activity.
In the words of Vernon Griffith, “Don’t take their superpower!”
Annette Zapp, of Fire Rescue Wellness, relates components of reset to apps on your smartphone. You might crack your screen or have an app that’s in need of an update or temporarily unavailable but that doesn’t mean you need to ditch your phone altogether! You still have other apps at your disposal. Likewise, when one component of your reset strategy is a bust, you still have the others to help offset the loss.
Unfortunately, tactical professionals tend to live in extremes. This tendency causes constant fluctuation between on and off the plan instead of following a more sustainable strategy that lives somewhere in the gray area of a realistic middle ground. Youth, cultural pressure, and polarized schedules enable an unhealthy black and white approach in the early days of most tactical professions, facilitating ignorance that eventually gives way to a less forgiving reality that accompanies a transition into a new role or a new career. I’ve transitioned out of the military and into the civilian world twice now, and am 12 years removed from my final day in the Army yet I still struggle with an ingrained tendency toward extreme behaviors.
Don’t fall for the all or nothing fool’s choice.
Consistently making better choices when it comes to your RESET strategy leads to more sustainable behavioral upgrades than fluctuating between best and worst case scenarios.