Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive, and Dodge "Dodge. Duck. Dip. Dive. Dodge." These are known to be the "5 D's of Dodgeball, according to the movie, "Dodgeball," starring Vince Vaugn and Ben Stiller. You know, dodgeball is not a bad metaphor when it comes to life. (I am not quite so sure the movie is great metaphor FOR life, but lest I digress...) Truer still is how, metaphorically speaking, employing the 5 D's when it concerns the stress attendant to the LEO lifestyle can go a long way to improving our marriage and our communication. Put a tad differently, the LEO lifestyle is constantly throwing wrenches our way, wrenches that if we just learned to dodge those we could be pretty well equipped to handle all the rest - including actual dodge balls. A fair number of the stressors in the LEO lifestyle result from the physical dynamics associated with the profession. Particulars of a night shift (including difficulties trying to sleep when the "rest of the world" is up, and making noise), bodily tension caused by the physical dynamics (like driving and running while wearing a 40 lb. duty belt), adrenaline-related effects upon the body (like the adrenaline highs and then the fatigue from adrenaline dissipation from the body), the random physical demands (like hunger resultant from a call-heavy night and little time to eat), the physical effects and manifestations of psychological factors (like tenseness from concern for the well-being of others) and so are all physical source of stress our officers are daily experiencing. The correlation between physical stress and break down in communication, quite simply, is a no brainer. Fortunately for us married into a LEO lifestyle it is actually the easiest addressed, and most broad-sweeping corrective of sources to communication breakdown. Dealing with physical stress, and having a lifestyle oriented to stave off effects resultant from physical stress curtails the need to resolve physical stress-related conflict when it arises. Our Approach Our approach to addressing stress can be three-fold: identify, correct, and face the "what-if's". As far as the latter - the question of what if stress makes it past our best efforts to avoid it - is concerned, well, hopefully last month's article on communication, and future articles exploring the nature of LEO's will help us process those, crossing those bridges when we come to them. Ultimately the concepts of "identification" we are working with here are those of accurately understanding the job, and "Preventative Care". The best sources for understanding the job (and its physical demands) come simly from our officers. The best sources for preventative care measures obviously will come from our Health Care Providers, through our City of Austin Benefits package. Many primary care physicians gladly take such requests, and perform tests geared towards assessing your current states of health, and your physical needs. Identify Obviously the critical step in avoiding stress-related breakdowns in communication is to identify sources of stress, and the easiest aspects to identify are the physical sources of stress. Are you a night shift family? What compounds the difficulties associated with sleeping in your house? What can you change physically? Is your nutritional plan meeting the needs of a night shift lifestyle, or a heavy stress lifestyle? Are you comfort eating or even over-weight? What preventative care steps are you taking, and do you need to take? Quite simply "Medline Plus," a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, has this to say about assessing stress: "ASSESSING STRESSAttitude: A person's attitude can influence whether or not a situation or emotion is stressful. A person with a negative attitude will often report more stress than would someone with a positive attitude.Diet: A poor diet puts the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system. As a result, a person can be more likely to get infections. A poor diet can mean unhealthy food choices, not eating enough, or not eating on a normal schedule.This form of physical stress also decreases the ability to deal with emotional stress, because not getting the right nutrition may affect the way the brain processes information.Physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity can put the body in a stressed state. Physical activity has many benefits, including promoting a feeling of well-being.Support systems: Almost everyone needs someone in their life they can rely on when they are having a hard time. Having little or no support makes stressful situations even more difficult to deal with.Relaxation: People with no outside interests, hobbies, or other ways to relax may be less able to handle stressful situations. " If life is process and like a game of dodgeball, both at the same time, we may not always be able to get identify sources and get a system in place before we experience the situations brought on by stress. So while we are getting things together we need to be able to identify when that stress is being indicated. This way we may not have cut conflict off at the pass, but we can respond quicker with our efforts to avoid unnecessary conflict. Obviously there are some tale-tell signs, as identified by webmd.com: How stress affects the bodyCommon symptoms of stress include: A fast heartbeat. A headache. A stiff neck and/or tight shoulders. Back pain. Fast breathing. Sweating, and sweaty palms. An upset stomach, nausea, or diarrhea. So, in effect, if these or other signs seem to be present along with conflict or "grumpy behavior", well, maybe we need to take a step back, and engage our officer spouse with the communication tools (from the October article) in order to asses the situation. Anecdotally speaking, almost 40% or more of my wife's and my conflict is birthed in one or the both of us being hungry or tired or both, and if it was at the end of a long and busy night's shift then such needs are almost always bound to be playing a factor. Correcting Every individual and situation is different, and the methods we use to correct the stress will be relative to our specific needs. Surely there is quite a bit of wisdom and great advice to be found among other officer spouses for dealing with, let's say, how to make the house darker or more quiet for sleeping during the day, or great deals on stress relieving products (for instance, maximum strength Tiger Balm muscle rub can be found at Walgreen's and Whole Foods and Central Market). Corrective actions always need to be taken under medical advisement, obviously. Ultimately, though, correction (of physical-based stress patterns) involve another "D" word: "discipline". It is here a very nuanced point needs to be made, and here that the LEO spouse can be as important and relied upon as kevlar. Through our personal discipline and commitment (to the project of correcting physical-based stress) we provide consistency in support and consistency to the programs aimed at fostering health in our persons, in our officers, in our relationships with our officers and families. If the physical safety of our officers as well as the ability of our relationships to flourish and bear trial can be supported by our discipline in, let's say, walking 20 minutes 3 times a week and providing healthy meal options and easier sleeping environments and routines, and if we take our officers and our relationships with them and our families to be important, then have the reason and want to be disciplined. If we have the reason and the want to be disciplined, and if the expectation of our officers to function professionally (and not distracted by unnecessary conflict or stress) can be supported by us and our discipline, then we perform an invaluable service with that discipline. We should not minimize or trivialize our efforts, just as we understand the importance to our relationships of our efforts. Note, no where is there the notion "we should be more disciplined". We want to be, already, for the sake of the officers and relationships we cherish. But, it is the case, we are doing more than just adding broccoli and fiber to the casserole. So don't look down on asking a shift-mate's spouse what she covers the window with, or what fiber-filled dish he loves to cook, or how she encourages her officer hubby how to follow her out of the house on that little walk. Don't dismiss your efforts to keep the kids outside, or be so prideful to think you're beyond the need for a nap. Just be ready for that game of dodgeball at the next shift party, cause I plan to take no prisoners.