A doctor facing an emergency room crowded with patients after hours on call. A policeman before the disturbances caused in a soccer match. A military man protecting a fishing boat in pirate waters. A pilot who must land a plane with a mechanical failure with hundreds of lives in his hands. A firefighter armed with a hose in front of a burning building. They are very different jobs, but they have something in common: situations with high levels of stress before which most of the mortals would succumb. They, however, face them with the cold blood, bravery, and integrity of a superhero. “They could be considered special people,” says the stress psychologist Lourdes Luceno. The equation that turns them into what combines personality, training and genetics.
“This type of persons they have what psychologists call a stress-resistant personality“explains Luceno, who investigates how police professionals and medical personnel react to certain circumstances. It is not that they do not feel or suffer the pressure of what is happening around them. Their bodies also activate the same mechanism that helps them react. before the environment: in stressful situations, they release adrenaline and cortisol, which put the brain in alert mode, increase the heart rate and tighten the muscles, among other responses. But, unlike most people, they do not succumb to negative stress , “What happens when you are overwhelmed by things that you must do and you do not have enough resources to face them”, clarifies the expert psychologist in anxiety and stress at the Human Area Center of Madrid Cristina Wood.
Control, commitment and sense of humor
The personality of cold-blooded people is defined by Three key factors: control, commitment, and challenge. “They think they have control over what happens. They are professionals who are highly committed to their work, who usually choose it by vocation. Finally, when a different situation arises, they do not consider it a problem, but rather a challenge that must be overcome. they sink before the difficulties, but they take them as an apprenticeship “, clarifies Luceno. Although not everything is in character, training is essential. They must train to perfect these characteristics and be able to face certain situations without paralyzing. “With the help of psychologists they learn basic problem solving techniques, proper time management, social skills, to eliminate negative thoughts and rumination [dar vueltas a la misma idea durante mucho tiempo], to know how to organize, lead and support, “says Luceno.
Relaxation is also essential to keep your mind cool and act resilient in extreme situations. How this state is achieved is something that science has done on numerous occasions. Practicing meditation regularly seems to be one of the ways — as determined some studies– but not the only one. Music is another one of them. Listening to it regulates the hormonal response of stress, preventing it from paralyzing us, according to a research from the University of London. And laughter: learning to see different situations with humor helps a lot, according to a work in which the behaviors of firefighters with symptoms of post-traumatic and occupational stress were analyzed. Those capable of having a good laugh while dealing with their problems tended to experience fewer negative effects in stressful situations. And it is that laughter has chemical effects on our body, it releases hormones such as endorphin, serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which help us relax and give us a feeling of well-being. Sport also has similar effects on the hormonal response.
Cold blood comes from the factory
It might seem that by training, listening to a lot of music and laughing a lot, we could all be able to get the cold blood of these professionals, but no. A part of its power is written in its DNA. In the same way that it determines the color of our eyes, skin and hair, it also seems to define the way in which we respond to stress. Even though the studies carried out in this regard are only in animals, science suggests that some of our genes They have the job of producing and regulating a molecule called Neuropeptide Y (NPY), which could be a kind of switch to stress resilience. Its operation is not yet fully understood, but it has been observed that when faced with stress, its production shoots up in some of the animals studied, helping them to respond more quickly.
But education also has a huge influence, says Wood: “They tend to have had a childhood without great trauma,” and the reactions of their parents “they learn by observation to make the same responses to situations of uncertainty and stress“. Support for them is essential from childhood and when they carry out their work, “essential to face very stressful situations like the current one,” says Luceno, who adds that “they need both their peers and the outsider.”