April 13, 2022

How Not Lose Yourself In Your Career- Annette Zapp

In this episode, we will have Annette zap. She's got 30 years in health and wellness. And she has been a firefighter for 18 years. She's going to tie all that experience up into this podcast and tell you how you can lead a healthier and better life as a first responder. She has got some great tips and wisdom.

In this episode, we will have Annette zap. She's got 30 years in health and wellness. And she has been a firefighter for 18 years. She's going to tie all that experience up into this podcast and tell you how you can lead a healthier and better life as a first responder. She has got some great tips and wisdom. 

In this episode, we can learn:

👉Why are departments falling so short when it comes to health and wellness;
👉Is it that expensive to have like a health and wellness coach for first responders;
👉Is there a particular workout for first responders;
👉Sleep can process trauma;
👉Do energy drinks exacerbate PTSD;
👉Why pure counseling is important;
👉Why is there a need to unravel our thoughts and emotions;
👉What are some avenues to help reduce that trauma other than sleep and nutrition;
👉Are younger people coming into the fire service more apt to get PTSD?
👉How should we look deeper into ourselves to see if that's who we are;
👉And many more!


Annette Zapp (AZ)

An 18-year veteran of the fire service, Zapp holds the rank of Lieutenant and owns Fire Rescue Wellness, a coaching business dedicated to elevating the mental and physical wellness of fire fighters worldwide.  She earned a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and is credentialed as a National Strength and Conditioning Association CSCS and TSAC-F, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach, a CSNS through the Society for Neurosports and a CISSN through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

Zapp, a former adjunct faculty at the University of Denver in the graduate program for Sport Coaching is a recognized industry leader in the field of firefighter health and wellness. A published author and highly sought-after public speaker and podcast guest, she also served on a 2019 Illinois Senate task force dedicated to mitigating first responder suicide.


Hi, everyone, and welcome to this week's episode of Enduring the Badge Podcast. I'm your host Jerry Dean Lund. And I don't want you to miss an upcoming episode with so please hit that subscribe button. And while your phones out, please do me a favor and give us a review on iTunes or Apple podcasts. It says, Hey, this podcast has a great message and we should send it out to more people. So please take that 30 seconds to a minute to do that review. And just maybe by doing that, it will push this up into someone's podcast feed that really needs this message. My very special guest today is Annette zap. She's got 30 years in health and wellness. And she has been a firefighter for 18 years. She's going to tie all that experience up into this podcast and tell you how you can lead a healthier and better life as a first responder. She has got some great tips and wisdom. 

Let's jump right into this episode with a net or she goes by AZ as well.

I will answer to both. Now. All right, perfect.

How you doing today?

I'm great. I had a I was on duty last night and I had a wonderful opportunity to sleep. But I didn't actually get very good sleep. So I'm hoping to fire on all cylinders for you.

Nice, nice. That would make our jobs so much easier if we could take those opportunities to sleep and actually sleep.

I now it's just it's unbelievable how difficult it is to sleep on duty. And that's why we just have to capitalize so much off duty, we just can't afford to mess around with our sleep off duty.

Right, right. So before we get into that subject, that's definitely what I want to cover. Tell the audience a little bit about yourself because you got some pretty cool credentials.

Yeah, I tell everyone, it's because I didn't know what I wanted to do when I got big. And it just worked out really great that everything I did along the way sort of made a puzzle that fit together really well. I have a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, which many other firefighters have that degree and it's really not that useful for firefighting, but it comes in really useful for being able to read scientific data, understand studies and all of those things. So along with that, biochemistry, masters, I have almost 30 years experience in the health and wellness field. So like everyone else, probably I started out as a personal trainer at a change my taught some aerobic classes, I taught some spinning classes. But I really heard to comment on when I started to understand this concept of coaching teams and using sport specific training and that kind of thing. And so I am credentialed as a strength and conditioning specialist. I'm credentialed as a nutritionist, which is different than a dietitian. And then I've been on the fire department for I just celebrated my 18th anniversary. So I have two years to go on all of those things together. And I have a business that I consult with fire departments on their health and wellness programs. So that's kind of the long story and how I got here.

Fire Rescue Wellness

And then how about you're finding that your family dynamics.

I love my parents moved around a lot when I was little. And they finally settled in a small town in South Dakota when I was a junior in high school. And they've never moved since I left South Dakota in 1997. And I came to Illinois. I don't know why I chose Illinois. Actually, I do know why I chose Illinois just wasn't a great choice. And so I'm kind of I've I fly solo out here. So I do have one adult son and a significant other. I am unmarried, but my family is very far away.

Oh, yeah. And they're there in the cold weather area to you just to escape it. 

Yeah, I know. It just, I just was not a smart move for me. I'm two years left, and then I'm going somewhere else.

Oh, well, that'll be exciting. So with all those certifications and training and everything like that, you put your business together, and you're doing consulting, and I want to jump right into kind of one of the topics the that you sent me and it's like, why are departments falling so short? When it comes to, let's just call it health and wellness.

That's a big topic to unpack. But it's really actually very simple. Our society has been getting less and less this for decades. The Industrial Revolution ruined us as humans, everything is now easier for us. And we try to make things simple if we can do it sitting without any effort were super happy. Well, firefighters and police officers and even the military are hired from the general population. So we are automatically less fit than we have ever been in human history than we We couple that with a job that exposes us to daily trauma and sleep deprivation. And we have a recipe for disaster. I just heard a statistic recently. And unfortunately, I'm not sure exactly where the statistic came from. But I heard it from Chris Moore, who's the captain on the east coast in the fire department. And he said, the average human encounters one to five or absorbs one to five traumas in their lifetime, with most people absorbing around two to three. So that would be there at a block party and their neighbor has a heart attack, or they observe a child being run over by a car, something like that. So two to three of these events, we can have two to three events and a 12 hour shifts. And so all of those things were already less healthy as humans, and now we're sleep deprived and exposed to all this trauma is a recipe for disaster. The unfortunate part is that the fire service, and law enforcement too, haven't really kept pace with understanding that. And so although a professional football player gets drafted, and the team immediately throws so many resources at them, money, special coach sprinting coach, a dietician someone to make their meals just to make sure that they perform well. We just we don't have any of those resources. We don't even have a fraction of those resources. Right. So that's where we're missing the mark, I truly believe.

Is it really that expensive to have like a health and wellness coach, or what a coach that someone that in the, in the first responder world helping first responders just become more fit, and be more educated? Is it really that expensive?


Image result for if you think wellness is expensive then try illness | Kids  health, Healthy lifestyle quotes, Expensive quotes

You know, I would argue that you can't afford not to do it. But from my perspective, first of all, return on investment for something like that health and wellness is huge. A typical health and wellness program, even let's say at an office, so Xerox puts in a health and wellness program, typically they'll get up and they'll say three to one is good investment. San Antonio fire, hired their own athletic trainer. And their first year that she worked there, she got a six to one return on investment. And the second year, I think about 10 to one. So it's an incredible return on investment. Now that said, if you want someone that actually knows what they're doing is qualified and credentialed. Yeah, you're gonna have to pay for that person. But again, I just I feel like you can't afford not to do it.

Right. Because, like athletes, we're expected to perform at our best all the time without nearly like you said a fraction of those resources. So we find ourselves trying to put that stuff together ourselves.

Yes, or so that's best case scenario. Worst case scenario with some people just some people just give up. They don't know what to do, they get so inundated with so much in different information from everywhere, they just say if I don't know what the perfect thing to do is, I'm not going to do anything, which I don't think is a good strategy, in my opinion, simply if you don't know what to do go for a 30 minute walk every day. And that's a great place to start. But there's this expectation that we'll think about it, we solve problems. People call 911 to solve problems. And so there's just this assumption that we know how to solve all of our own problems, too. And some very special skill set.


Walking for Mental Health - YouTube

Yeah, yeah. I mean, we do solve them. We just don't probably do them correctly.

Yeah, and that's a great point. You know, I'm stressed out I'm anxious, my nervous system is on high alert. I'm going to numb out by having three vodka and cranberry grease or whatever, and sit and stare at the TV for six hours until I don't feel anything.

Yeah, yeah. Or what if you're on duty, what's what's the, like, the numbing mechanism that you see first responders doing things like while on shift.

You know, I see sort of cannibalizing each other, just, you know, picking on each other finding this person of the day and picking on them. You know, picking comfort foods over foods that you know are going to be more wholesome for you. Same thing, you know, numbing out just watching TV until midnight or one o'clock. You know, it's kind of the same strategies on duty.

Yeah, yeah. Are on their devices scrolling through who knows what Let social medias to numb themselves, I think did bring up a really good point is that it's very hard to find information that's gonna, that's gonna like specifically help me and what I'm going through. Um, then I'm like going to WebMD, basically, of the nutrition world and trying to find out like, oh, yeah, this is what I need to do. That's not very accurate.

You know, it's, it's really difficult because even reputable organizations such as, say, Mayo Clinic, they'll put out something on their website, and I'll just look at it and think, oh, that directly contradicts the most recent scientific literature. And and I don't know who's writing those things. But if Mayo Clinic doesn't get it right all the time, how are we going to get it? Right? Yeah. And that's why I think it's just so important to have a culturally competent health and wellness person. And this is what I tell departments. If you only have this pot of money, use that pot of money to hire a coach. Before you worry about equipment before you worry about building a space before you worry about apps and gadgets and, and T shirts on whatever, hire a coach. Because we see this happen all the time division three schools, you know, college collegiate programs, they have a closet, a broomstick, two cinder blocks and a bucket. And those coaches train 450 non scholarship athletes to perform their best. And so that's what's critical direction and being able to tell these people what in the heck to do. I think that's the most critical piece of it. And unfortunately, that's usually the last piece that happens. Because it's so easy just to buy a rack of dumbbells, a couple of you know, slam balls and a treadmill and say, good luck. We did our part. Now you do yours.

Right? Right. They made the initial investment into into some equipment, but that's just really not enough. And I think each one of us needs to work out a little bit differently than than the other person. 

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It's true, you know, to some extent, I like to quote Dan John, who is kind of a an icon in the health and wellness industry almost an injury Oh goodness, industry. He has a very funny blog posts. And I think your readers would love it. It's called Ice Cream Eyewash and Mexican food. But the the too long didn't read part of it is for the most part, everyone should be training the same linebacker baseball player, your grandma, little kids push pull hinge squat, carry some heavy stuff around and try to make sure that you're stable in your pillar. From there, then you can sort of customize it for for people's certain limitations and their injuries or the fact that they're almost seven feet tall versus five feet tall. Yeah, really, everyone should be doing pretty much the same thing, just with their own little nuances on it.

Being Reasonable with Dan John - End of Three Fitness
Right? Do you do you have like a particular workout or type of workouts? Do you think it's better than others for first responders?

Well, I used to be really, really opinionated about a lot of things until I realized that it's just so important to meet people where they are. And so if you had asked me this question three, four or five years ago, I would have said, CrossFit is terrible. No one should do CrossFit. Everyone gets injured. I was very black and white, but I just realized that the really the most important thing for first responders to do is what they'll actually do. And so marathon training is so far from optimal for firefighting, yeah. But if they're going to do marathon training, then I'm going to help them get strong and stable. And if they want to do strongman training, I'm going to make sure they're mobile enough to be able to climb up the stairs and also have enough cardiovascular capacity to make it so meeting people where they are in that sort of gray area gray area between black and white is critical. And that's not just firefighters. It's everyone. Sure, but this is what I tell people. As coaches. You cannot bully people who go into buildings that are 1000 degrees willingly. And the same, you can't bully police officers who willingly go into an active shooter situation. You're not gonna win. Yeah, mentally tougher than you are. Bullying people doesn't work, meeting them where they are works. Is it tougher or just stubborn? Um, I'm just get? No, but I mean, it's partially, what makes it so difficult to work with first responders is what makes them so good at their job. They're constantly critically thinking they're constantly looking for a solution, which interprets actually to a loophole when you're talking to them in terms of fitness. I just had a guy reach out to me and he's like, my crew is mad because I won't let them count riding their Eber ebike as their fitness, because they're looking for a clever loophole. So what makes us great first responders makes us tough clients to work with.


How Firefighters Use Fitness and Workouts to Train at Firehouses

Yeah, yeah, I could, I could see that. I mean, let's bounce back to like sleep, because that you brought that up in the beginning. And I know, you know, when we're on shift, or whatever, those are fortunate enough to try to get it actually a little bit of sleep on shift, it just is a terrible quality. And then for me, I come home, I used to not come home, take a nap. But most often I come home and take a nap. Because I can see the both mental and physical difference and decline in me, when I don't focus on both my nutrition and sleep, but more specifically miss my sleep.

You and I, you and I are the same. So sleep is not just a passive process asleep. There's activities going on while you sleep. Your immune system is being boosted, your memories are being consolidated, your trauma is being processed, and your body is being repaired. So you're releasing growth hormone and all kinds of good things when you sleep well. And if we discount the importance of sleep, the trauma, the lack of processing the trauma, trauma is an exponentially I'll say exacerbated. Yeah. And then just think, I don't know if you have little kids, but just think how rotten they are when they don't sleep enough. It's the same thing with adults. Right? Go give yourself a nap because you're being awful right now. Yeah. Also, you know, our reaction time, our decision making our performance, both on the fire ground, in the bedroom, in sports, all of these things are impacted by sleep. And so there's like you said, with your nutrition, you can definitely soften and mitigate the impacts of sleep deprivation. But really, you can't hack sleep. Everyone needs sleep.


Sleep Stages [4 Types of Sleep Stages] | SleepScore

Right? Right. I was just recently reading a statistic. It's like, most people need seven to eight hours of sleep. When I say most that was like 97% of the population need at least seven to eight hours asleep. So that's leaving 3% of the population that needs less than that. But most of us feel like we're Oh, I'm a three percenter. You know, I don't know you're not? Yeah.

Yeah. Well, in the mortality risk, all cause death is increased a lot. And people that sleep less than six hours, I think it's 10%. And then 4%, in those that sleep only six to seven hours. So then you go, Oh my god, I'm getting three hours on shift, whatever. So I do what you can, again, soften the impact of that with naps. And so what what they're seeing currently is either a 20 minute nap, or a 90 minute nap. So 20 minute nap ensures you don't get into that deep sleep and you're not going to wake up and feel like you don't know what planet you're right. And then a 90 minute nap ensures that you get all the way through an entire sleep cycle. So you're going to wake up again, feeling refreshed, but, you know, banking sleep, so getting extra sleep in times, where you know, like if, if I'm going into a 48 I'm banking sleep on the way up to that 48 So that I can perform better and come out on the other side. I'm in a better situation for sure. Right?

I think maybe the audience is listening to this that's in law enforcement. They're like, yeah, right, getting anywhere near that is pretty much impossible for most of them, at least almost every single one of them that I talked to. And I have a brother in law who is in law enforcement, and one who was in law enforcement, you know, and they're working, like, the graveyard shift, and then, you know, to try to come home and sleep and the kids are trying to go to school and then be up when they come home from school, so you can spend some time with them. And as their sleep is so minimal, and so broken up on like, I don't know, how they do it sometimes, like, you know, go to training, you know, to do SWAT training, and then the guys are getting off the, you know, the graveyard shift. So they offer just a couple hours before, you know, going to training and just like man, I that is you can see it on him. I can see it on him. I'm sure they're filling up for sure. And they're trying to make up with that by the amount of caffeine that the intake, right. Yeah, to to keep them up.

Well, and, and energy drinks, and caffeine causes their own problems. First off, if you are over caffeinated, you're affecting your sleep for the next day, which is terrible. But energy drinks in and of themselves. Not only are they very caffeine concentrated, some of them have one and a half times the amount of caffeine you should take in a single dosage. So a bang energy drink has 300 milligrams of caffeine, right. Whereas 200 is your like, top dosage. So Wow. But the other thing is that when you look at those energy drinks, they have ingredients in them that are toxic to our brain. So not only are we sleep deprived, now we're poisoning poisoning our poor brain. And it just is creating a vicious cycle. So you know, I love the energy drink, too, but I tried to limit them and make sure to stop drinking them early in the day. But just paying attention as much as you can to your nutrition and your movement and sort of your mindfulness or meditation, whatever you want to call it can help with that sleep deprivation, but it can't offset it entirely.

Energy Drinks and Strokes: What Experts Say – Cleveland Clinic
Yeah, so are you is it 200 milligrams of caffeine for the entire days at the limit or in one dose.

So interesting. 201 dose 400 for the entire day. So 200 milligrams, no more often than every four to six hours. And then you want to stop about five to six hours before you're gonna go to bed. So when you march that out, sometimes you really can't get 400 milligrams. And the other thing that's interesting is that there's these little genetic polymorphisms, we'll call it. And there are a couple of mutations that make for being a slow processor of caffeine. So there are fast processors and slow processors. And those that are slow processors actually shouldn't have more than 200 milligrams per day. But most people don't know if they're fast or slow. Yeah, actually slow.

Yeah, I took a test. Just a little basic tests that had nutrition tests type of thing and stuff like that, and like some genetic stuff. And this was I was a slow processor. Yes, that's caffeine. So I have myself generally tried to cut caffeine off at two o'clock, you know, in the daytime. And then I to try to stay between two and 300 milligrams of caffeine total for the day. I know if I drink one of those energy drinks that have over 200 I feel anxious, I feel I don't feel good. I think a lot of us if they listen to your bodies, when you're drinking those high doses of caffeine, you probably are not getting the effect that you want. You're probably getting the opposite effect. Yes, you might be my alert, feel more alert, you're gonna feel more anxious and all the other crap that comes with that. 

Yeah, there's some really good studies in the military that show that energy drinks exacerbate PTSD. 
Energy drink overuse in the Army may exacerbate PTSD, study finds | Daily  Mail Online

So why would they why would they exacerbate PTSD?

I think the same thing that you're talking about that anxiety? Yeah. Yeah. So all in all, not to preach but probably not the best choice. And let's be honest, coffee. I hate coffee. I hate it. But coffee is not just happy brown liquid for most people. Black coffee actually has health benefits to it. Probably you lose most of those benefits when you put you know half men six teaspoons of sugar and with tapping or whatever in it, but coffee does have health benefits. Whereas energy drinks do not have health benefits. They may improve your performance in athletic endeavors due to the caffeine but they do not have health benefits like coffee.

But why don't they say I'm getting all my B vitamins and all these other vitamins in there and all these other things that are labeled on the can. Am I getting those you think?

Okay, so bang energy not to hit on bang again, but I well, they claim to have super creatine in their energy drink. And actually, there was just a big study done, it was funded by Monster so take it with a grain of salt. But know this creatine is not stable in liquid. So if I take my pound of creatine, and I mix it with five gallons of water, and I put it in my fridge, probably the next day, it's it's a waste, it's not stable and liquid. So Bane claims that they created a super creatine that is stable in liquid. But then monster studies that it wasn't so to be determined. But

Yeah, yeah, I've heard that same exact thing. Yeah, actually. And so got went down this rabbit hole of energy drinks, which is good, though. You know, when we're talking about sleep, and in trauma, and I think, in sleep is in the deep realms of sleep where we're getting some of that trauma processing done.

Yeah. So so in the later sleep cycles is when it's happening. So the problem is, when we're on duty, and you go to sleep, when you get 45 minutes asleep, and you're up and you're down, and you're up, and you're down. Even if cumulatively, you got seven hours of sleep, which you probably wouldn't, but let's say you did, you never really got into that adequate, deeper, deeper stages of sleep. So that's an issue too.

Yeah, that's the, those stations that run all all day and all night and do it for 48 hours is full. That's incredible. Yeah, we're gonna have mercy. Yeah, they have a lots of respect for them. I don't know how they function, and how they function on their days off and stuff like that. I would need like a full day of sleep to recover from, you know, not having any sleep basically. Agree. So let's talk about a wise pure counseling. It's so important.

Yeah. So for the longest time, what did we do at Firehouse at the police station, we saw something terrible, we came back and said, terrible dark humor, things about it. And everyone thought they were great. Like, are you okay? Yeah, I'm great. Well, we're not great, because we're losing more first responders to suicide than any any other line of duty deaths. So more than cancer more than cardiovascular disease, more than motor vehicle crashes, we're losing our first responders to suicide. And so this concept of peer counseling, is, I believe it's helping because people feel like they can. Everyone wants to be heard. Everyone wants to be understood. But sometimes people are afraid to reach out to people that they know. And so the anonymous peer counseling matrix that many states have put together has been tremendously helpful, I believe, because one of the other issues that we have is that, let's say, I finally go, okay, timeout. I know, I need help, I'm gonna go to the the EAP while we're when I go to that EAP a large percentage of the time, that is not a specialized EAP for first responders. And so they say, you work 24 hours, what what are you talking about? Tell me how that works. And you spend 30 minutes explaining your shift. And then they, you know, you tell them about the the trauma that you've seen, and they're like, they're crying and you're, they're there. So now I'm back in that role of saving other people. So the the peer counseling, it's very effective because it's anonymous, and I see you I get you, I do your job. And of course you feel the way that you feel and, and sometimes just having that conversation changes of someone's whole trajectory, and it's really important.

Fla. program promotes suicide awareness for first responders

So do you feel like we can only save so much up inside it before, we just, I don't know, I would say explode our emotions or our body, the way we feel just like all this stuff just unravels?

Yeah, I heard a great analogy. It's like a filing cabinet, you just keep putting those things in there. And maybe you don't necessarily put the electric bill in the right folder, you just shove everything in there. And one day, the filing cabinet is full, it explodes, it's going to be at a very inconvenient time. And it's just then is is go time. So it's so much better to get your filing cabinet in order before it becomes an issue. And so one thing I think that my department has done a good job at is they've been having me for I think it's less three years come in and talk to people in the very first day. And I say, Hey, welcome to the fire service. You may or may not know this, but we're losing our first responders to suicide, we're losing them to cardiovascular disease. And I explain that all to them, I explain to them that it's pretty critical. Now, before you even start that you go create a relationship with a mental health counselor, I like maybe only check in every six months, but at least you've got a relationship. Because what we're seeing in police, fire and military is that we're drawing people into this career that have a lot of adverse childhood experiences. And those adverse childhood experiences lead to higher levels of PTSD, higher levels of suicidal ideation, higher levels of completed suicide. So we're coming into this career with bags full of stuff. And so we need to have the tools to offload that stuff, and organize that file cabinet before becomes a huge problem for us.

Thank you so much for listening. For those of you that didn't know, I'm a mindset coach. And with all this going on in the world right now, I want to give back, that's why I'm giving one free month of my coaching to one person. If you're interested in learning more, please go the website and leave me a voice message or go on to Enduring the Badge Podcasts on Instagram. Or you can also find me @fireandfuelcoaching on Instagram as well. Talk to many people about peer counseling and about people that are coming into being a first responders. But you're the first one that's ever said that you know that because it does make sense when you look at the higher suicide rates and stuff like that the people that are attracted to this job, there is that correlation.

Yeah. And just I remind people all the time, we are not superheroes, we are general population with more trauma.

Yeah, yeah. What are some avenues to help reduce that trauma other than sleep, nutrition, maybe a counselor is there any other things that someone could do?

You know, just moving your body in a meaningful fashion helps to recalibrate, reset and, and I, I believe we said this, even before we started recording, if you don't know what to do, just go for a walk. And even if it's only 15 or 30 minutes, just go for a walk, that improves mood, and cognition, and all kinds of great things in the body. The other thing that we need to think about is that sort of mindfulness, and awareness and ability to be present in the moment instead of always in the past or always in the future, those things can be tremendously helpful. And I call those buckets. And if one bucket is sort of draining faster than the others, then I try to throw more things in another bucket. So for example, if I know that I'm not going to have time to move how I want to move this week, than I make sure and do not fill my nutrition bucket with garbage. So this is not the week to eat a large pizza by myself or something like that. So just doing our best and doing 1% Better. Every single day is extremely impactful in my opinion.

How to Practice Mindfulness & Make Peace with Food - Mind Over Munch

Yeah, I truly believe that too. I love the 1% better each day I think it keeps you in some kind of mindfulness. least thinking about things you know, like maybe 1% Better is having like it said one less slice of pizza or not doing something that's gonna have a negative consequences maybe to your body or to your to your sleep and stuff.

With always, I'm sorry, go Oh,

go ahead. No, go ahead.

And I just always say, you know, recognize better is better. Just one thing, just like you said one thing a little bit better.

Yeah. And start to gain momentum when you start to get in that mindset.

Yes. So, you know, I encourage people, if your life is a train wreck, at this moment, do not try to make all of the changes, find one thing and cling on to that thing, whether that's one aspect of improving your sleep or whether that's, I'm going to actually attempt to drink an actual glass of water today, rather than, you know, all of the other things that I drink, pick that one thing, cling to that one thing. And then like you said, that will start to build more good habits. Good begets good.

Right? I feel like there's an explosion in like population maybe or just in the fire service world of and law enforcement as well of new new hirings. Right, there was a kind of a big, large pause there. And now we have kind of a two kind of splits in a lot of departments, right, we have some that are getting close to their retirement, and some that are just with a few years on. Yeah, and they're getting so young, when they're when they're hired on, do you think maybe was some of the I hate to say that like lack of life experiences, maybe in the some of the younger people coming into the fire service would contribute to maybe getting a higher, more acceptable, like amount of PTSD, like that would be more apt to get PTSD?

I don't know. I do know that. So we talked about the adverse childhood experiences and how those are predictive of mental and physical issues later. But also people that prevail in challenges early in life, also are more resilient. And so perhaps, if you haven't had the challenge of, you know, when I was in junior high in high school, we, everybody didn't get a trophy, everybody didn't get to win. And so although that's not a true life challenge to win, or lose the four by 400 meter relay, I did know what disappointment felt like and what losing felt like. So to some extent, I do believe that makes us a little bit more resilient. But also I have to, I have to say, the younger population does have a really healthy outlook on some things that I never did. I recently had a conversation with a young woman who was looking at a career transition from strength and conditioning to firefighting. And so I did with her what I do with everyone, which is tell them the bad things first, and then tell them the good things. I'm not truly trying to talk them out of it. But I don't think anyone else tells them the bad things. So I told them about things and the good things. And then I said, What do you think about that? And she said, I think I'd like to try it. And you know, what, if I don't like it, I can just leave and get another job. And I was like, Holy crap, I never considered. I mean, I thought about leaving, I wanted to leave. I was never brave enough to leave. Yeah, but the younger generation is, they're ahead of us.

Right? Now. They totally and they, they're more apt to enjoy their time off, and they just live their lives a little bit differently, a little bit more freely, which is not bad. You know, then I feel like I did when I was their age. You know, you get get married, get kids. And then you're I feel like once you're they're married and kids and you're in one of these services, you know, military, law enforcement, firefighting, stuff like that. It's really hard to make that huge life change by leaving.

Well, what does everyone tell you? You can't leave? What a pension. Right, like, first day?

Yeah, that's true. And now like in our state that happened to work longer, basically for all for less. Us too. It's like, and they're wondering, why can't we attract worthy candidates into these services and like, because we can't compete with other companies that are actually giving them more money, more flexibility, better benefits than what then you know, the what we can offer, it used to be the other way around in a lot of ways. You know, the cities and governments would give you these better quality or better things, you know, to luery into Back to the service, but it's kind of flip flopped.

I love to tell the story. When I started, we we've always had Blue Cross Blue Shield. And I've always myself stayed on the PPO because I just like to, when I want to go to the audiologist, I don't want to go to a GP who tells me you need to do the audiologist. So, but my deductible when I started in 2004 $250, yeah, it's now 3500.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association - YouTube

Right, right. That's, that's sad is part is those things are happening far as benefit wise, but the wage wise and is not there. Like, you're not supposed to show up more money for insurance, basically. But I'm not getting compensated in my wages to actually be able to do that. So I'm actually making less than now than I was.

A lot less. Yeah, look at it. Yeah.

Yeah. And then I'm free right now, like with inflation and everything. So it's like, it's really hard to lure people into these career fields and get them to stay. And then you have to admire somebody like that. If they don't like it, then then leave. That's great. You know, don't get stuck, where you feel like you're stuck, because that's not going to do you any good. The department a good your coworkers, any good your family. Good. So that is a good point.

That's a great point. And I was like, I'm an idiot.

What Yeah, so what are what would be some of the bad things and good things you would say to a candidate looking to get in?

So I always tell them about the the suicide, and the way that firefighters, their health decreases throughout the fire service, I tell them, you know, there's a lot of time off, but much of that time off is spoiled by the time on. So you know, you may work one day and be off two days, but one of those two days is soiled. By the time that you've been working, you will, of course, miss your family events here. And again, you will see things that our brains are not designed to see they're not designed to process, you will experience possibly administrative betrayal. Because in many fire departments, the firefighter is at fault until proven proven otherwise. So instead of an immediate gathering of the wagons or circling of the wagons around a firefighter that's accused of a medication error or something like that, it's assumed that it's their fault until proven otherwise. I think already said the sleep deprivation that one really gets me if you're a female in the fire service, many fire stations even to this day are not set up for females. And so it just it becomes difficult. At first you think, oh, it's not that big of a deal. But after 10 1215 years, it starts to become a big deal. Yeah, so those are some of the bad the missed meals. You know, the holding over when you have a lay call just all of the basic things, but no one tells people that Yeah. And then, you know, previously, the argument I would give them for the great things would be, you know, for what we do, or like an insurance policy, we get paid for what we're willing to do not what we actually have to do. I used to say, you know, for the most part, the workload is very modest. That's not true anymore. The workload is very heavy. Now, I would say, you know, the paid time off, we get Kelly days, we get vacation days, we have unlimited shift trades. So if you want to trade away your whole February to go to Italy, great. You're gonna have to pay those days back. I tell them I'm very fair in my assessment, but I just I let them know that you're gonna have to work really hard to keep a hold of the person you are now and make it through this career and survive and thrive.

Yeah, yeah. Do you remember the person you were when you got into the fire service?

Yeah, I'm almost back there. But I lost that person for a decade. And I didn't even know what was happening. Because to me, I understand. I understood depression, but I understood that it was sadness. It was laying in your bed being unable to get out of bed it was I don't want to eat or I'm overeating. That's what I thought depression was. I didn't know depression was anger, burning seething. 150% anger 24/7 And, and that's where I was. I isolated myself. I was angry all the time, not at my coworkers, but at, you know, the ignorant people at the grocery store who would say something like, Oh, look at the girls here today, she's gonna cook for them, I would lose my crap. Yeah. So that's, I'm getting back to the person that I used to be. But I'm lucky that I finally realized why I wasn't the person that I used to be. And I could make some steps towards crawling back.

Yeah. Was there an aha moment? When you're like, Oh, wow. Yes, I lost that person. And look who I am now.

Yeah. So this person, I always try to give him props. Because, you know, he, I've told him to his face. But I think he needs reminded sometimes we are, are just district vice president for our union in the state of Illinois. So the the district vice president that is in my area, he started the Illinois firefighter peer support system, based on his experience. And he I saw one day on the schedule, Matt Olson, peer support. I was like, Okay, I don't know what that is. But I like Matt, so I'll go listen to what he has to say. And he talked, and he told his story, which is really important. People need to tell their stories, and not just the good parts, right? This whole, like, live in the dream couldn't be happier. It's bullshit. Yeah, you need to tell your story, and you need to tell the bad parts. And Matt told his story. And the summary was, I never intended to become a jerk, alcoholic, you know, addicts, whatever. He said, That wasn't my intention. But that's what happened to me in the fire service. And so when I finally opened my eyes and sort of came up out of the darkness, he could finally start making those steps towards finding himself again. And so me listening to that, and realizing it was a huge lightbulb going on. And I realized, not only is I'm not alone, it's not just me, but it's, it's like the fire service. This is what's doing it to me, and I'm allowing it. And so that was a an epiphany.

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I can completely relate to what you're what you're saying. And I feel like we lose a lot of resilience. And I quite honestly, there's, I still look back. And I'm like, I, it seems like so long ago. I've been doing this over 30 plus years now. And it's just like, yeah, who was I back then? Was I this person than I am today? I'm clearly not. And I can totally relate to your, what you're saying about you know, that, like frustration and anger and, you know, that builds up in society you in this career, and I listen to something and or read something. And it's like, in some verse means this, like, I think people are like, so inconsiderate. Like, kindness is like, left the world. And so now on the moral police, I'm like, why is that person have to like, be so inconsiderate? Like, why is it seem like life is always about them oriented. This about ourselves, like don't care about anybody else. It's just about ourselves. I'll just run this red light, this stop sign this, you know, do whatever, break any rule, whatever, just because I can.

Well, and the great news is, and this is I'll tie this together, I promise it's related. So I'm very excited. I bought myself a membership to a carwash recently, and it cost the 1999 a month and it's like this gorgeous drive thru. You get all of it. And then you can actually drive over to the Detail Center and it's a nice big shed. And they have all this stuff hanging from the ceiling like vacuum, you can fill up your washer fluid. There's canned air tires, all of it so cool. Well, this morning, I went to wash my car on the way home from work and it was really weird. They were diverting people. And the guy said, the carwash is broken. They're working on it. We're really sorry. Like, no problem is the Detail Center open and he said yes, like cool. I drove over to the Detail Center. And it's supposed to the gate supposed to go up because I have a little sticker on my car. Gate doesn't go up. I'm waiting, waiting, waiting, backup forward, back and forward. Finally a guy comes out. And he lets me in manually. So I come in and I pull up to a stand. And the first thing that happens is I pull down the Fill the wiper fluid thing It's empty. And I'm like, okay, so it's not going well. The next thing that happens, I want to scrub my car mats. I go to use the sink, it's broken. So now I'm pissed. The carwash is broken, I can't get into the Detail Center, the stuff is not, it's not stocked, whatever. So I'm like, seething. I'm like, this young man came over to me, and he looked at me, as are in my fire department sweatshirt. I don't usually do that. But for some reason, I had an eye on and goes, Hey, are you a firefighter? And I said, I am. And he said, I just got hired on the Montgomery Fire Department. That's great. Congratulations. Is it full time or part time we had this conversation was really nice. And then he said, I saw that the, the washer fluid thing was empty. So I filled that up for you. And then he looks over the same. He goes, Yeah, I'm really sorry about that. That's a work order that's in like we're taking care of but I'm sorry, you didn't have a great experience here today. And I was like, it was all butter, because it was just a little bit of human kindness. And I thought that I was handling it. Well, I wasn't mad about the carwash. Too mad about getting in, but I was getting mad. Yeah, but a little bit of human kindness goes a long ways.

Yeah. And we can see that on our on our calls that, you know, giving someone some kindness can really change what they're going through. And I think both direction Yeah, yeah, totally and totally in both directions. And this guy kind of goes back to sleep a little bit. When you're first responder and you're not getting that sleep. Your kindness is I feel is pretty limited. And your anger is pretty rapid.

A bucket of kindness is empty.

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. That's. So what would you say to like, maybe someone to like, have like this aha moment, those that are out there that are like maybe listening to this. And like, Hmm, maybe I am this way. And maybe I'm not what, what should I do about this? Or how should I look deeper into myself to see if that's who I am.

I think there's a couple of different approaches that you can take. So the logical thing for me to do, once I went, Oh, I get it, the logical thing for me to do would have been to start counseling. But I felt so much better immediately, just understanding that I didn't go to counseling, it was probably a couple more years before I started counseling. So self awareness and simply being self aware. And paying attention to that, you know, sleep and nutrition movement, mindfulness that we talked about, is one way to do it. Starting a dialogue with either a professional, or a trusted peer, I think is another way to do it. And then there's also this concept, it's becoming sort of new or it is new in this in this realm, sort of this first responder coaching concept where, you know, business people sometimes have a life coach to get their, get them sorted and situated. So there's now first responder life coaches that I think are coming into the field and probably actually able to really help too. So I think there's a variety of ways to attack it. Whatever you're most comfortable with would be the way to start, I would think.

Yeah, yeah. No, I totally agree with you. That's actually something I've seen as a need in the first responder world. And that's some of the coaching that I'm offering to is just some of this coaching for first responders to like you said, Keep some keep yourself is like you were before you got into the fire service is as much as possible. Not get wrapped up in the fire service is my life and who defines me.

Firefighting is a verb, a noun, you are not a firefighter. You are a dad, brother, husband, whatever.

Yeah, yeah, it's so easy, I think to get wrapped up in that whole thing. Depending on the fire department to that you work at some smaller departments, I'm going to say is probably worse, because you have a lot of different jobs that you hold and you're in constant contact day in and day out with something involving the fire department, you know, bigger Fire Department, you probably don't have that. But you know, there's different pros and cons and being you know, the size of your department for sure.

Well, I think there's a distinct advantage for people. There's a pros and cons. But there's this distinct advantage for people that do work at multiple fire departments in that they do become so very skilled and able to conduct themselves in such a skilled fashion. But also we have to remember that you are taking minutes off of your life every time you are going to a shift, and so if you are working multiple fire departments, that becomes an issue very quickly.

Yeah. And and often happens, it seems like most every first responder has more than one job of some sorts.

And usually it's some sort of other 911. Right, right. Correlation job.

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And that, where can people find you and follow you so they can continue to get some great advice from you?

Oh, that would be very fun to have some people following. So the first thing I have to shut up my website because my assistant did a really good job on it. So it's www.firerescuewellness.org And then I am @firerescuewellness on Instagram, and @firerescuewell on Twitter because I couldn't have enough character. But I'm honestly most active on Instagram. So that's probably the best place to reach me.

Awesome. It's been great having you on and you shared a lot of great advice and wisdom about many different topics. And I think if you're getting into the fire service, or been into the fire service, or first responder, I think there's so much value in this episode today.

Well, and I appreciate the conversation on the opportunity. I hope you have a wonderful rest of the week.

Yeah, thank you so much.

Thanks again for listening. Don't forget to rate and review the show wherever you access your podcast. If you know someone that would be great on the show, please get a hold of our hosts, Jerry Dean Lund, through the Instagram handles @jerryfireandfuel, or @enduringthebadgepodcast. Also by visiting the show's website, enduringthebadgepodcast.com for additional methods of contact, and up to date information regarding show. Remember the views and opinions expressed during the show. Solely represent those of our hosts and the current episodes guests.

Annette Zapp (AZ)Profile Photo

Annette Zapp (AZ)


An 18-year veteran of the fire service, Zapp holds the rank of Lieutenant and owns Fire Rescue Wellness, a coaching business dedicated to elevating the mental and physical wellness of fire fighters worldwide. She earned a master’s degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of South Dakota School of Medicine and is credentialed as a National Strength and Conditioning Association CSCS and TSAC-F, Precision Nutrition Level 1 Coach, a CSNS through the Society for Neurosports and a CISSN through the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
Zapp, a former adjunct faculty at the University of Denver in the graduate program for Sport Coaching is a recognized industry leader in the field of firefighter health and wellness. A published author and highly sought-after public speaker and podcast guest, she also served on a 2019 Illinois Senate task force dedicated to mitigating first responder suicide.