Did you know that first responders are some of the most resilient people?
When people experience a traumatic event, every human has a natural automatic biological response that happens within their body. Those automatic responses to stressful or traumatic events happening repeatedly or over a long period of time can lead to lingering stress, depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse and unhealthy coping. Not only do responders learn how to be masters at compartmentalizing the deaths and trauma they see, they show back up to each shift with the possibility of being exposed to more trauma.
Unfortunately, our uniform or job cannot prevent or protect us from this happening, but what we can do is build our resilience up, find healthy ways to cope, build or create a healthy support system in our personal and work lives and most importantly allow others to feel they can come forward when they are struggling so that we, you, someone can help them get the help they need.
A lot of us may feel that our employers and companies should bear much responsibility for our mental health and well-being, and I agree to an extent. However, I also feel we as individuals should be #1 in making our mental health a priority. WE must be the change we want to see by prioritizing our mental health, providing peer support to a co-worker or peer that is going through a hard time, ran a bad call or is having the shift from hell. Help find solutions and be willing to be part of making those solutions happen! Nothing changes if we just vent, complain or pass the responsibility off on someone else. We must do better than that, not only for ourselves but for all those who come into this field behind us and most importantly, we must not forget all the brothers and sisters who have suffered in silence or lost their battle with depression, we owe it to them to not let their deaths and suffering be in vain.
Self-care is crucial to not only keep us sane but to refuel our bodies, minds, and souls!
- Nurture connections with friends and family outside of your workplace friends/family. This will allow you to ground yourself into your personal life and world and creates a boundary between the two. Yes, you can still love your workplace family, meet up for cookouts, birthdays etc.! 😊 However, it’s healthy to have some separation between work you and home you, because let’s be honest we all know if more than 2 first responders are together long enough the story telling of calls or workplace banter will begin.
- Find a way to work just 1 less shift a month! I know some of you might be panicking at just the thought but when you replace that shift with a YOU day, that panic will turn into creativity on finding a way to make that happen! Use that day to do something you love, that brings you peace, something that you used to do and have not made time for. Just make it happen!
- Financially-Lets be honest, most people tend to live outside of their means to keep up with the Jones’, they buy the house that’s way to big, the big truck with $500 payments etc. However, not all struggle due to living outside of their means, it could also be that they are the sole supporter in their family, they are saving money for their children’s college fund, trying to reach a goal, dealing with a separation/divorce, or any of life’s other issues that can affect the bank.
Suggestions: Find and take a Financial Peace University class or you can do the leg work and read the Dave Ramsey Financial books, there are Dave Ramsey Facebook groups that share great ideas on how to cut cost and budget efficiently to pay off debt, meal prep to save money on eating out, give up the fancy expensive coffee and make your own at home.
Here are a couple of sites that may help get you started:
- Positive/Motivational/Spiritual Influence: There are studies that show we have better overall attitudes, feel better, are more motivated when we fill our thoughts and downtime with something that makes us feel good, gives us hope or creates new exciting goals.
Suggestions: Create a folder on your phone with apps that are for the soul purpose of bringing you peace, happiness, faith/hope, motivation, and self-help tools. Your phone is something that is compact, we always have with us and can be watched, listened to, or read even while on shift..
Some app ideas:
- Vision board
- Gratitude apps
- Guided meditation app
- I am- positive affirmations app
- Ichill – this app teaches you resiliency building, grounding, self help for anxiety, this app will talk you through each technique
- PTSD app
- Religious/Spiritual app that gives you daily devotions
- Find a mental health professional-I know this step can be scary for some but just like we would see a doctor for a yearly physical, a cold, a broken leg and not feel any shame. We should, when needed, see a counselor for our mental health as well. It can feel good to offload those burdens we carry with us and find solutions to help ourselves with the guidance of a mental health professional.
There are a few ways you can find a counselor:
- If you have insurance, there will be a mental health number on the back of the card. You can call that number and they will assist you with finding a counselor relative to where you live. If you do not see a mental health number listed, call the main patient services number to get assistance.
- You can visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists put in your zip code and it will bring up counselors in your area. I would recommend doing this step whether you have insurance or are self-pay. This site will allow you to see a picture of the counselor along with what they specialize in i.e.: PTSD, Addictions etc.
- You can visit our list of resources on our website and Facebook pages, these resources include mental health providers who have experience with first responders along with national resources and resources for addictions.