Self-regulation for Stress: Optimize Health & Performance Course is based on close to 10 years of direct and applied research within law enforcement. This research included working with law enforcement around the world, including Canada, United States, Iceland and Finland. Under the accredited course of iPREP, this modified course uses key concepts geared to municipalities and city staff.
The course addresses the need for officers to control and modulate their own stress responses so that they can then make sound decisions and control the outcome of the situation.
Traditionally, training has been focused primarily on learning skills to manage external factors that are encountered on the job. What is needed is a paradigm shift in regards to training police officers. Decades of research in psychology, learning and performance have provided evidence that if trainees learn how to manage internal processes, such as the modulation of stress physiology, cognition and emotion, they will be much better prepared to learn skills for external threats and perform better on the job. The good news is, scientifically supported, evidence-based techniques exist that assist in learning to modulate internal processes. These techniques have been successfully applied to police officers.
Developing an Evidence-Based Method of Police Training
Evidence-based law enforcement training means that there is scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of that training in meeting desired outcome goals. Police organizations and the federal government of Canada have outlined specific goals for policing and law enforcement agencies, including the following: First, to improve officer decision-making about applying the use of force techniques and de-escalation strategies. Second, to prevent operational stress injuries (OSI) by promoting mental and physical resilience among police officers. Professional researchers have worked in collaboration with large police agencies and expert police trainers in North America and Europe to specifically address the goals outlined for policing.
Stress, Resilience and Performance
When a person encounters a stressful situation, they experience a surge of natural chemicals, such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals allow the body to respond quickly. When this biological threat response is moderate, it enhances performance through more accurate vision, hearing, motor control, and response time. However, when the threat response is severe the response can negatively affect performance by creating distortions in thinking, vision, hearing, and increasing motor control problems, which can result in slower reaction times. Stress impacted officers at every level, not just recruits in training. Severe threat responses that are extended or frequently repeated can significantly raise the risk for physical and mental health conditions. The good news is that the negative impact of stress on performance and health was not inevitable. When training practices addressing internal physiology are applied, individual patterns of stress and performance can improve.
The research found that, regardless of experience or expertise level, officers didn’t often connect their psychological and physical reactions with their performance. Therefore, a critical component of our training is to illustrate this connection in a way that is individualized and relatable, and provide concrete strategies to improve performance and resilience.
Modern training programs and research need to meet the goals set out by organizations and the federal government. Specifically, an evidence-based method of improving decision-making about applying the use of force techniques and de-escalation strategies while also enhancing officer resilience.
Officer Wellness and Long Term Health Benefit
In addition to the performance and decision-making benefits of this program, there are real and measurable techniques that help staff maintain health, correctly responding to the demands of the environment and repeated physical strain.
Our body uses a number of regulatory processes that enable us to respond and recover and do that over and over and over. However, the constant demands can cause our automatic regulatory processes to become overwhelmed. When this happens, our health suffers. To maintain our health we can learn to augment our automatic regulatory processes. The process of augmenting our automatic regulatory processes is called “self-regulation”. Self-regulation is the process of training specific physical and mental skills that improve our ability to respond to the demands we face and recover from that effort. Self-regulation skills thus improve long-term health while maintaining or even improving our performance.
Self-regulation skills appear to affect long-term health by shifting the balance between two important parts of our nervous system. These are the sympathetic nervous system, often referred to as our “fight-flight-freeze” nervous system, and our parasympathetic nervous system often referred to as our “rest and digest” nervous system. Our automatic regulatory processes maintain a balance between these two nervous systems. When our automatic regulatory processes get overwhelmed they are unable to maintain that healthy balance.
This training speaks to self-regulation skills providing a rapid technique to improve the sympathetic-parasympathetic balance in stressful situations.
This training program balances academic presentations and direct practice of skills. Students learn how their bodies respond to stress and then practice practical and realistic techniques that address those responses. These techniques lead to increased performance, and better decision making, specifically decision making related to the use of force and incident response.
The techniques within this course are tailored to each student, where instructors help them find what works best for them and is in balance with their own stress response. Stress responses occur within everyone. Our obligation is to learn real tangible skills in managing them so that our decisions stay within policy, public trust and legal authorities.
When people apply the techniques of this training on a regular long term basis, research has shown improvements in overall health.
All of the core courses offered through Step Training Inc. are customized to each customer’s needs. We do not prescribe to a one course fits all approach to training. Although the core training is consistent, examples, references to internal policy, authority, and organizational culture are factored in.
We use and have access to professional actors and customize reality-based training to the learner level and expectation of the organization. All training is supported with professional lesson plans and workbooks.