Being an adult is hard. There are deadlines to meet, things to take care of, and expectations to maintain on a daily basis. Not only is being an adult hard but being a first responder is even harder. You have to do all this AND save lives as a first responder. As adults, leaders, parents, and first responders, we all deal with massive amounts of responsibility daily. When you factor in social activities and other engagements, squeezing in some time for yourself is extremely challenging.
A common misconception about self-care is that it is synonymous with self-indulgence or selfishness. This is simply not true, as self-care enhances our lives significantly. Self-care means taking care of yourself so that you can be healthy and do your job. Regardless of how you feel about self-care, you must make time to indulge in some, at least once a day, without guilt or remorse.
What is Self-Care and Why is it Important?
The World Health Organization defines self-care as “the ability of individuals, families, and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health worker.” This is a health-oriented approach, and often one that many organizations and researchers take. According to this definition, self-care means staying physically healthy, like keeping up with hygiene, nutrition, and physical activity.
As we progress throughout the years, the definitions of self-care have evolved to become more about general well-being and tend to focus on tuning in to one’s needs overall. While being physically healthy is important, it’s also crucial to be mentally and emotionally healthy as well. Now, self-care can be defined as anything that you do for yourself that feels nourishing. This can mean something calming or relaxing, intellectual or spiritual, or even physical or practical. Self-care requires checking in with yourself and asking how you are doing so that you can perform your job well. Imagine the repercussions of first responders' responsibility if they were not performing at their best. As a first responder and / or service provider doing a gut check is a great start in which knowing what your feeling and what you need.
Tips to Help You Get Started with Self-Care
Taking care of yourself and putting yourself first may be easier said than done, especially if you are so used to taking care of others. Start by designating one day a week to prioritize your self-care. As you continue to do the things that help you find peace of mind, you will slowly start adding them into your daily routine. No matter if they are big or small, you should always try and take some time to indulge in self-care. Here are a few things you can start doing to ensure you are mentally and physically healthy.
Get regular exercise
Physical activity is a great pathway to self-care. This does not have to mean lifting weights at the gym. Simply going on a short walk every day can help boost your mood and improve your health.
Male sleep a priority
Stick to a schedule and make sure you are getting enough sleep every night. Getting a healthy 8 hours of sleep can help improve your overall health significantly and will regulate your mood.
Eat nutritious foods
There’s no need to cut out your favorite foods for the sake of self-care. However, eating a balanced diet while drinking plenty of water will increase your energy levels and help you focus throughout the day.
Start doing things for your enjoyment
Self-care looks different for everyone, and it’s important to find what you need and enjoy. Find things that make you happy, like meditation, reading a book, listening to music, or journaling that will help you focus on positivity. By incorporating things you enjoy into your daily routine, you will be less likely to burn yourself out and be able to manage your health more effectively.
Source: Moira Lawler (2023) What Is Self-Care, and Why Is It So Important?
Source: Mental Health First Aid (2022) How and Why to Practice Self-Care
Source: National Institute of Mental Health (2022) Caring for Your Mental Health