The lesson on self-care you need to learn from soldiers on the battlefield (from TEATIME WITH DRAGONS)

This is a special piece that’s part of my evidence-based relaxation series for TEATIME WITH DRAGONS members–you can get evidence-based relaxation by joining TEATIME for free here!

How are you today?

Have you taken a moment to check in and see how you are doing, or do you even have the energy or time to look inside yourself?

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”

Remember that scene, in the movie Predator? Steamy jungle. Hidden scifi explosions. A green-screen’d shadow figure, the Predator, stalks and skins humans because we’re exciting and violent prey. Mustachio’d tough guy gets injured mid-battle, and a trickle of red traces his muscle-bound arm.

“You’re bleeding!” someone cries.

“I ain’t got time to bleed,” his gravelly voice replies.

I know that feeling. Maybe you do, too. Sometimes you just know inside that if you take a moment to bleed everything will fall apart, and your mission’s too important to you — so you don’t stop. You need adrenaline, action, pain, even, to stay awake and aware, hyped up enough to accomplish your mission. You can bleed later.

But the fact is, eventually, whether or not Mr. Warrior has “time” to bleed, his body will stop.

Some of you know I used to be one of the military doctors who trained combat medics and took care of soldiers getting ready to deploy. We learned and taught TCCC, trauma combat casualty care, which is a system implemented across the military after comparing the death rates in the Rangers to the death rates among other combatants.

The Rangers have some of the toughest missions in the military, but a sixty percent lower death rate than other combatants. Why?

About twenty years ago the Rangers mandated that all their soldiers get basic medical training for combat injuries. They even changed the terms: it’s not medical treatment, it’s combat casualty response. It’s everyone’s responsibility to act for their wounded battle buddy.

And most importantly, it’s the wounded person’s responsibility to act first.

That doesn’t mean the wounded person suffers alone. It just means that while the guns are blazing, your job as a wounded combatant is to return fire, tie on your tourniquet, and deal with any life-threatening bleeding right here, right now.

Because you don’t know when someone’s going to be able to get to you in that hailstorm of bullets, and you don’t know if someone might get shot coming to get you.

Self-care and fighting back makes all the difference.

In coming weeks I’m going to draw a number of parallels between the physical care of a wounded warrior, and your mental strength and relaxation; at the end of this email I’ve included a fascinating article along with the ten-year study of the Rangers’ progress. We’re going metaphorical up in here, but it’s still all evidence-based stuff.

(That sounds like an awesome tag-line, doesn’t it? “We’re so scientific even our metaphors have studies, bam!”)

For this week, I want you to think about the difference between your quick, emergency mental self-care under fire…

and those moments that the danger’s passed, and you really need to deflate and let it all out.

The moments you have time to bleed.

See, under TCCC, a tourniquet is a temporary measure to stop bleeding right now. If we don’t have time to bleed, we don’t just ignore the bleeding until we die. We tie on a tourniquet, and keep fighting.

But if you leave a tourniquet on too long, you lose limbs, because you don’t have blood flow to your distal extremities. At some point, you have to get to a surgeon, have the tourniquet removed, and have whatever operation you need to definitively fix the injury.

What’s your “tourniquet” — your emergency plan for when you’re under fire, for when your emotions begin to swirl and overwhelm you? Your safety plan for suicidal ideation, if you suffer mental illness? Or, if you don’t suffer mental illness, your quick mantra/skill that helps you calm down and focus during the day’s toughest battles?

And then, after the battle, when do you take the tourniquet off and heal? When do you dive in and actually fix what’s injured and broken? When do you have time to bleed?

Personally, I would compare the tourniquet vs. the surgery to DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) vs. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). DBT, at least in the distraction and mindfulness phase, helps deal with overwhelming emotions. CBT is where you actually go in and challenge the automatic negative thoughts that constantly bring you down. It’s not a perfect comparison, because both therapeutic techniques have many applications, but it is a fact that, as I’ve shown with studies before, DBT especially excels in preventing self-harm and saving lives, while CBT is known to work like an anti-depressant to improve well-being in the long-term.

A spiritual person might have the mental tourniquet of a quick, meditated Scripture verse or prayer during the emergencies; then, during their healing time, they might use thoughtful, pensive time alone in deep Bible study and repentance to become a stronger person, closer to the Light.

In terms of the practical resources I can offer you, this could be the difference between a cup of tea to calm down during the work-day, vs taking the time out after to work through your struggles with a therapist.

I think no matter where we are in our journeys, we all sometimes forget to have any kind of emergency mental plan at all. Or we rely solely on our emergency brain and never take the time to rest and actually heal.

What about you? How do you prepare for your next crisis? Are you ready for battle, for the moments when you don’t have time to bleed? Are you ready to rest, when you need to, and actually sit down and heal?

If we’ve learned anything from the Rangers, it’s that self-care is buddy-care; if you want to win, you take care of yourself and others. I hope you have time for that today.

Written by Jen Finelli, MD — The Tingles Tea Relaxation Doc. You are definitely welcome to use my tea for that quick, “calm-me-down” self-care in the moment. And if you choose to get a therapist for the actual serious “surgery” self-care, you can use my affiliate link to get ten percent off online therapy. This article is part of a special series, most of which is only available to the Tea-Time with Dragons Relaxation club. I’ll send you those articles, along with some free relaxation science and a birthday gift, right to your inbox if you want!

Sources:

Joelving, Frederik. “Rangers lead battle against avoidable combat deaths.”
Reuters Health, HEALTHCARE & PHARMA, AUGUST 16, 2011. Published at Reuters online.

Kotwal RS, Montgomery HR, Kotwal BM, et al. Eliminating Preventable Death on the Battlefield. Arch Surg. 2011;146(12):1350–1358. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2011.213

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