Are We Adrenalin Junkies?

As founder of Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance I have traveled over 130,000 air miles annually for the past three or four years. Crisscrossing the states and Canada presenting workshops for EMS and fire organizations. There have been many issues we have seen and trying to bring awareness to our brothers and sisters. 


My definition of an adrenalin junkie is the member who works fulltime with an EMS system or fire department then works at other departments on their off days.

One such issue I have seen increasing these past years is the subject of adrenalin junkies. It is a term I use with endearment for my brothers and sisters who seek to help their communities plus enjoy being in the medic or fire field but I often wonder at what cost? My definition of an adrenalin junkie is the member who works fulltime with an EMS system or fire department then works at other departments on their off days. Perhaps they have part-time jobs at two or three different departments or volunteer as EMS or fire at several departments. The adrenalin junkie. The ones who enjoy what they do plus the excitement of the calls. The passion and dedication to help others.

Now this isn’t a bad thing but it begs the question of “When do you let your brain rest and recover from all the calls?”  We stress our body from the physical aspects of when the tones go off such as increased blood pressure, heart rate, loss of sleep and cortisol release. The changes our body goes through are tremendous but what about our mind? The constant dealings with the community, in some of the most horrific calls, places a major toll on our brain which can lead to many issues such as depression, addictions, PTSD and suicidal thoughts. The possibility of job burn-out becomes a reality for so many of our brothers and sisters. Yet, there are many positive actions one can take to relax our minds and bodies. If you are a chief officer the need to assess your department as well as yourself are imperative in today’s world.

What To Do

Many of the recommendations that follow are both good for the body and mind. Find some outlet to reduce the adrenalin junkie within all of us. If you have some ideas on what works for you then share with the members in your organization.

  1. Yoga. A tremendous practice of physical, mind or spiritual exercises. Numerous departments across the U.S. have hired yoga instructors who come into their departments to assist their personnel. You can join in your community or go to YouTube and find a video for beginners.
  2. Walking. Instead of the physical stress of running just take a walk and begin to notice the relaxation within your body. I tend to listen to music and let my mind relax as I enjoy the surrounding desert and mountains.
  3. Acupuncture. The relaxation of acupuncture is enjoyed by many first responders to help them sleep, alleviate stress or muscle relaxation. We recommend you ask your doctor first if you currently have medical issues.
  4. Dancing. Dancing is a very relaxing exercise. Now I am not talking about the Kevin Bacon “Footloose” style of dancing but something a little less strenuous. Combining music and your physical workout can bring relaxation to the mind and body.
  5. Music. A soothing music sound helps, especially if you combine it with a bath and candles. Sometimes just getting away in a bath tub is very relaxing.

There are many ways to relax our minds such as reading, having a movie night, or just watching the stars at night. The point being we, as first responders, who give in so many ways, need to practice SELF-CARE! Start taking care of our minds from the daily calls we see now, because the price we pay if we don’t — can take its toll.

In 2011, Jeff Dill founded Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance (FBHA).  This organization is a 501 (3) (C).

Jeff Dill travels the United States and Canada holding workshops to teach firefighters and EMS about behavioral health awareness and suicide prevention. FBHA is the only known organization that collects and validates data on firefighter and EMT suicides across the United States. In addition, FBHA holds classes for counselors/chaplains, family members and preparing for retirement. He holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Argosy University (IL), a Licensed Professional Counselor, and a retired captain at Palatine Rural Fire Protection District in Inverness, Illinois.

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