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What Can a First Responder Do to Take Action to Reduce Stress Symptoms?

Stress is inevitable for any profession, but especially for first responders and service providers. They often have to put their own emotions and feelings last, while their logic and critical thinking come first. Front liners do not have the luxury of understanding or tapping into their feelings while on the job, instead, they must compose 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 begin to realize how much stress they carry. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce stress while still providing top care for your community.

Stress in First Responders

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. 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. While stress is not an illness, it can cause some serious damage if it isn’t addressed. To get a better understanding, learn the common causes of your stress so that you can try to prevent it in the future. Typically, the most common causes of stress in first responders are: 

  • Being under a lot of pressure

  • Not having control over a situation

  • Having overwhelming responsibilities

  • Going through a period of uncertainty

How to Reduce Stress Symptoms as a First Responder

To help with burnout and stress, it’s important to put yourself first. Writing in a journal, talking to friends, peers, and family, and practicing meditation are 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. This is especially important for first responders, as they need a mental break more than anyone.

Make a Routine

Doing peaceful physical activities like going for a walk or yoga can help alleviate tension in the mind and in the body. On top of this, start planning your day to implement consistency in your otherwise chaotic schedule. Having a consistent routine will help balance out the unknowns of your work environment.

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 lives. Participation in therapy helps to work through those experiences in a safe space. 

  1. Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018) Emergency Responders: Tipis for Taking Care of Yourself

  1. Source: NCBHS (2023) Mental Wellness Tips for First Responders

  1. Source: My Health Finder (2023) The Basics of Stress Management

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