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  • Writer's pictureLibby Sudyka

First Responders and Reflexology

When I was training in Reflexology, the most available feet I had to

practice on were my husband, a Firefighter and EMT. I knew reflexology felt

good and was relaxing, but as I trained and my husband got regular sessions,

I saw changes in his mood, sleep, reaction to stress and the biggest. Maybe

most impactful for our marriage, was the ability to transition from work

brain to home brain much easier if I could work on him shortly after he

returned from shift.

Studies are showing the adrenaline dump after a shift for first responders

looks like depression in the brain. After a 12, 24, 48, 72 hour shift of

constantly waiting for a call to drop causes their bodies to be in

fight/flight mode. When they are finally off duty, all that adrenaline dumps

into their bodies and causes this cascade of hormones. I noticed my husband

just could not shut down. There was a call he spent all night on an oil rig

that had exploded and caught fire. He was exhausted, but instead of heading

up for a nap to refresh, he spent the morning literally moving boxes from

one side of the garage to the other until later that evening he collapsed

into bed, mentally and physically exhausted. But even the shifts where they

ran 1-2 calls in 48 hours, my husband would still come home exhausted from

lack of sleep, the stress of 48 hours being ready to jump into action, and

the general stress of the fire service.

As I started working on him regularly, I started seeing the mornings I

worked on him were much smoother. He was less irritable, he looked forward

to a good foot massage and spending a bit of time together after a shift. He

also slept much better that first night home. My husband is prone to

nightmares and they started to be less as he again was able to receive

regular sessions. He also stopped his crazy moving boxes around (most of the


My capstone project was Reflexology in the fire service. I worked with 5

responders and tracked their sleep, stress levels and mood. They all

received one 1 hour session once a week over 6 weeks. All of them reported

sleeping much better, even sleeping better at the station while working.

Moods across  the board improved, and having a close relationship with the

spouses was also important because we see stuff the responders may not see

(or want to admit). The most shocking thing for me was the stress, while

stress levels fluctuated through the trial, all reported being less affected

by the stress, and were more able to let things go. Again, the mornings I

could work on a firefighter made the transition from shift to home so much

easier. It was impactful and exciting to see this across the board.

While you might not be as close to a First Responder as I am, Reflexology is

an amazing tool to help family members reduce stress. Our reflexology

workshop is March 9th from 10a-12p.

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