Training – The Dump, What Happens? – Blog 21-6

Can you condition yourself to cope with the physiological and psychological effects of being in a situation that has caused your body’s reaction? The short answer is “Yes.” Since the beginning of human kind being at war, soldiers and leaders have been in constant search of advantages to be able to succeed. The ability to be victorious in a conflict has been sought since man’s beginning. There is a lot of literature and research about the topic. One of the earliest “The Art of War” by the Chinese military leader, and strategist Sun Tsu who lived between 544 to 496 B.C.

Training that you can incorporate into your plan to help you cope with the “Dump” is available. Some of the techniques can be part of your daily regimen and some others may prove expensive or time consuming. You have to count the cost and balance your daily living with these methods.

But before you can prepare a plan to cope with the adrenalin dump, you need to understand what is happening to your body when you are placed under a great deal of stress from a potential or an actual attack.

Have you ever been startled, or completely taken by surprise that aroused fear? So, what will your body and mind experience?

Heartrate. Your body’s heartrate will increase as a threat or fear recognized and the adrenalin is released. There has been continuing research on heart rate and its effects on performance under this stress. It is important to know what skills are affected generally by the heart rate.

In Dave Grossman’s excellent book (a must read) “On Combat”; he goes into detail about the effects of heart rate and a person’s performance capabilities.

  • 60-80 BPM (Beats per minute) is considered the normal resting heart rate of a person. Your arousal condition or psychological condition is considered white.
  • 100-115 BPM your arousal condition is yellow. Your fine motor skills begin to deteriorate at 115 BPM.
    • What is a fine motor skill? Think of what skills are needed to thread a needle, inserting a key into a lock, buttoning your coat or manipulating the slide release on your pistol.
  • 115-145 BPM is considered the optimal survival and combat level for your complex motor skills, your visual reaction time and your cognitive reaction time. Your arousal condition is red.
    • Complex motor skills (CMS) require intricate body movements with finer control of many body parts, such as hand-eye coordination, timing and/or tracking. CMS will combine a series of individual muscle group actions to complete a single task (“Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge”; Siddle page 44). For example, drawing, aiming and firing a pistol accurately, hitting a golf ball, catching a ball.
    • Visual reaction time is the time taken to respond to the sudden appearance or change of a visual stimulus. You are driving down the road and another vehicle pulls out in your path.
    • Cognitive reaction time is the amount of time that takes places between when we perceive something to when we respond to it.
  • 175 BPM is arousal condition gray.
    • Your cognitive processing deteriorates.
      • The brain runs many types of operations, from figuring out how correct the impact of your next shot fired, to detecting an attack by another person, to figuring out how to clear a malfunction of the pistol when you need it operating.
    • Vasal constriction begins to reduce bleeding from wounds.
      • The engineering of our bodies has included a number of life sustaining functions. One of these is vasoconstriction (vascular Spasm). The constriction will raise blood pressure and begin to focus blood to the major organs that sustain the body.
    • Loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision).
      • You will focus on the threat, and possibly lose awareness of what is going on around you.
    • Loss of depth perception.
      • This occurs when your pupils dilate from the stress response.
    • Loss of near vision.
      • With your pupils dilated, you will lose the sharpness you may normally experience not under stress. Think of a camera aperture. The wider the aperture setting, the subject of the photograph maybe in focus, but you will notice that everything else in the field of vision is out of focus.
    • Auditory exclusion or magnification.
      • You possibly will not hear the pistol’s report as the gun is fired.
      • The opposite may happen where the gun’s report maybe extremely loud.
  • >175 BPM is arousal condition black. In this condition, you are may feel or do:
    • Irrational fight or flee response.
    • Freezing.
    • Submissive behavior.
    • Voiding of bladder and/or bowels.
    • Gross motor skills are at highest performance levels.
      • This involves your body’s largest muscle groups. Think of running, crawling.

Awareness condition black is where you do NOT want to be when fighting for your life. Succinctly, this is what can happen to you during the stress response:

  • Your heart rate and blood pressure increases.
    • This means you’re probably breathing more quickly and heavily, which is helping to move nutrients and oxygen out to your major muscle groups. Your body is preparing for a fight.
  • You’re pale or have slushed skin.
    • Your blood flow is being redirected so you might experience feeling cool or like your hands and feet are cold and clammy. Your face might also appear flushed as blood and hormones circulate throughout your body.
  • Blunt pain response is compromised.
    • If your sympathetic nervous system is triggered by combat or a collusion, it’s not uncommon to only feel your injuries once you’ve returned to safety and have had time to calm down.
  • Your pupils will dilate.
    • Your pupils will dilate to take in more light. You may see better, but focus or sharpness maybe be diminished.
  • You are anxious, nervous, uptight, stressed, jumpy.
    • You’re more aware and observant and in response you’re looking and listening for things that could be dangerous. Your senses are heightened and you’re keenly aware of what’s going on around you.
  • Memory can be affected.
    • Sometimes during stressful experiences your memories of the event can be altered. Your memories can be very clear or vivid or they can be blacked out.
  • You are tense or trembling.
    • Stress hormones are circulating throughout your body, so you might feel tense or twitchy, like your muscles are about to move at any given moment.
  • Your bladder and/or bowels might be affected.
    • It’s not uncommon to lose voluntary control of your bladder or bowels in a truly stressful or dangerous situation.

During the fight or flight response your body is trying to prioritize, so anything it doesn’t need for immediate survival is placed on the back burner. This means that digestion, reproductive and growth hormone production and tissue repair are all temporarily halted. Instead, your body is using all its energy on the most crucial priorities and functions.

The stress response can be triggered in a single instant, but how quickly you calm down and return to your natural state is going to vary from person to person (and it will depend on what caused it). Typically, it takes 20 to 30 minutes for your body to return to normal and to calm down.

By Yerkes and Dodson 1908 – Diamond DM, et al. (2007).

In Bruce Siddle’s excellent book, “Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge“; he is convinced that controlling your heart rate is the answer to survival performance.

Being afraid during an attack or fight for your life is very normal. What you do not want to do is allow your fear to overwhelm you and cause you to go into awareness condition black. Knowing what you can experience is the beginning of preparing your plan to win. With training, you can learn to cope with the adrenalin dump during a fight for your life. You just have to commit to preparing yourself with the hope the skills you acquire will never be needed.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”

Mark Twain