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  • Writer's pictureJulie Kurtz

How to Be Your Own Emergency First Responder! (3 minute read)

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

In an emergency we call 911 for assistance! First Responders (paramedics, firefighters, nurses) are trained to handle highly stressful situations by practicing in simulated drills over and over until their brains can execute their duties logically and calmly, even in a highly stressful state. In schools, we have children consistently practice drills for emergencies such as fires, tornadoes, earthquakes etc. That way when a real emergency happens, the children will more likely follow the steps they've practiced instead of reacting in a chaotic panic.

With repeated practice, in a calm and regulated state, the brain is able to wire a new neurosynaptic connection or a habit (neurons that fire together, wire together) so you too can handle life emergencies and stressful situations without unintentionally causing harm by hurting yourself, others or property. How can you be your own first responder when faced with emotional or life stress? How do you avoid defaulting to fight, flight or freeze which may result in reactions that cause harm? How do you develop a habit of leveraging your own personal emergency plan to calm your emotionally reactive state?


Build your own personal Zones of Self-Awareness. Tuning inward and noticing what your body's sensations, feelings, thoughts and behaviors are when in each zone will help you become more prepared to be your own FIRST RESPONDER in emotional emergencies. You have or will continue to build your personal and unique 'Zones of Self-Awareness' or early warning system. Can you practice now? Some have difficulty with recognizing when they are in one or more of the zones, and that is okay. Be patient, and over time notice and cultivate your awareness. Let’s explore this concept a little more, build awareness and then create an emergency first aid kit so that you can be the first responder in your own life.

Green Zone = Calm, Regulated, Easy Going

Orange Zone = Emotional Buttons Pushed and Emotions Begin Rising

Red Zone = When you are in Fight, Flight or Freeze, Feel Unsafe and are Emotionally Dysregulated

How do you feel, behave and what do you look like in each of these states? Fill in the sections below with personal clues that inform you which zone you are in? It is okay if some sections do not come as easily for you. With time and paying attention, you will begin to cultivate more awareness of your zones and enhance your ability to recognize when you are in each one. Try to fill out as many indicators as you can in the chart below. It is common to feel stuck identifying the orange zone signs, or to notice that for some people, the green or 'calm' zone can be more triggering than red. Just continue to notice and fill in what you can over time.

Zones of Self-Awareness

If you find yourself in the orange or red zones based on your body sensations, feelings, thoughts or behaviors, what emergency strategies/resilience skills can you use to bring yourself back in to the green zone so that you are able to think, perspective take, problem solve, and have empathy for all sides of a problem?

Let's practice and fill in as many strategies below that will help ground you in stress or emotional emergencies.

Personal Emergency & First Responder Plan:

1. People/Connections that calm and ground you

2. Places/Environments that are predictable, restorative and safe for you

3. Objects/Things that are comforting

4. Activities/Strategies that calm your stress response system

5. Words/Self-Talk/Mantras/Quotes you say or may say to yourself to feel safe or calm

6. Routines/Rituals you do that bring you back to the ‘green zone’ and feeling more regulated

Just like a first responder, you have learned to recognize when you are in the middle of a potential or actual emotional emergency based on your sensations, feelings, thoughts and/or behaviors. With that understanding comes the ability to execute on your personal emergency plan that you have defined over time and practiced in advance of an actual triggering event occurring. Congratulations, and wishing you well on your journey of becoming your own first responder!


This blog on self-care and self-awareness was written by Julie Kurtz, Founder and CEO at the Center for Optimal Brain Integration®. Send inquiries to

Check out our other blogs that promote optimal brain integration and growing humans to be human(E)! Like us on facebook or join our email community. Check out our new book on amazon:

Culturally Responsive Self-Care for Early

Childhood Educators

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