We recognize that many of you are doing a great job practicing self-care. So, we thought it’d be helpful to provide some self-care tactics to those who are already practicing a good amount of self-care or who just want to go that extra mile!
1) Sleep – Sleep is one of the most important components of good health and brain functioning. Depending on your station, it can be hard to get continued sleep through the night and stick to a good sleep schedule when home with your family. Nevertheless, factoring in times when you can get adequate sleep is important for your health and safety, of yourself and others. Some tactics to get sleep in might be to: 1) schedule sleep time right after your shift is over, 2) when not on duty, 3) schedule a bed time that allows you to get continuous sleep, 4) whether on duty or off, limit time spent looking at your phone or other electronic devices before bed time, 5) limit caffeine intake throughout the day, 6) and workout/exercise no later than 4 hours before bed time.
2) Address pain as soon as you can, including emotional pain. – As first responders, you are tasked with helping everyone else in their worst situations. And, to many, you are a hero. While this type of job and accolades can be rewarding, it can also make it very tough when it comes to managing your own difficult situations. It can be easy to ignore the pain you have and focus your attention on helping others cope with their pain. However, this can be very taxing and can cause bigger problems for you in the long run. It is often times easier to hide and ignore emotional pain and it can be scary to address physical pain. But, when not addressed and left unresolved, emotional and physical pain can grow and cause bigger issues for you, your work, and/or your family and friends. It is best, and recommended, to do something to address and resolve emotional pain and physical pain when you first notice or feel it. You can do this by talking to a trusted friend at work, speaking to your partner, speaking to a trusted friend or family member or contacting staff at the Wellness Center, including Peer Support, Chaplaincy services, psychological staff, and/or medical and physical staff.
3) Take a break – know when to say when. – As previously stated, it can be easy for first responders to put themselves on the backburner in order to throw themselves in the trenches to help others. Additionally, the type of work schedule, the random nature of responding to emergencies, and managing home life when not on duty may make it hard to slow down and take some “me” time. While hard, it’s necessary. Some ways to take a break and “me time” may be to remove yourself from the crew a few minutes during the shift to meditate, pray, or sit quietly. This may be especially helpful to do after tough calls or difficult trainings.
4) Meditate/Mindfulness – Working out is usually not an issue for many people in this field of work. However, many people can forget to add in other forms of exercise, including mental exercises. Meditating and practicing mindfulness are great ways to become centered and refocused. These practices are also helpful in effectively managing stress and intense emotions. In the work that you do as first responders, meditating and practicing mindfulness can be a great way to clear your mind of all the things you see, experience, and encounter while doing your job.
5) Hydrate! – Many of you are doing a great job in getting water in during shift work. It is important to make sure that this is a continued practice as being properly hydrated helps you to manage your appetite, improve your mood and your energy levels, lower risk for heart attacks, and increase mental clarity, which is important for quick thinking and responding.