Stress is inevitable for any profession, but especially for first responders and service providers. They often have to put their emotions and feelings last, while their logic and critical thinking come first. Front liners do not have the luxury of understanding their feelings while on the job, they must compose and regulate their emotions and deal with what is in front of them.
As you can imagine, this can take a toll on the mental health of those individuals, who we trust with our own lives, as it is no easy task. When it’s all said and done, first responders start realize how much stress they carry. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce stress while still providing top care for your community. First, the basics:
Why Combating Stress is Important
Long-term stress can lead to serious health problems. Stress can also hinder your ability to do your job correctly, and as a first responder, the wiggle room for mistakes is bare-to-none. This is why it is so important to understand the signs of stress and know how to manage it before it overwhelms you. When under stress, you may feel anxious, angry, irritable, and depressed. And this is just the mental side effects. Physically, you can experience headaches, trouble sleeping, digestive problems, and weight gain or loss.
Dealing with these side effects while on the job can be detrimental, not only to you but to every person involved. First responders need to learn how to cope with stress both during the incident and after it’s over. There are many ways you can manage your stress while still taking care of your community in the most efficient way. Although it may be hard to think positively, stress can be alleviated. Here’s how.
Stress Reduction Tips for Self-Care
To help with burnout and stress, it’s important to put yourself first. Writing in a journal, talking to friends and family, and practicing meditation is good for bringing peace of mind. However, for some, it can take more.
Set Your Boundaries
Setting boundaries is important to not experience burnout. It’s not selfish to want to take some time off and prioritize your mental health. Take time away to go on vacation to make space to heal.
Make a Routine
Doing peaceful physical activities like going for a walk or yoga can help alleviate tension in the mind and the body. On top of this, start planning your day to implement consistency in your otherwise chaotic schedule.
Talk to a Professional
Don’t be afraid to seek help from a professional. There is a lot of trauma in first responders' work that can impact their personal life. Participation in therapy helps to work through those experiences in a safe space.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) Emergency Responders: Tipis for Taking Care of Yourself
Source: NCBHS (2023) Mental Wellness Tips for First Responders
Source: My Health Finder (2023) The Basics of Stress Management