It’s no surprise that being a first responder comes with a lot of stress, anxiety, and risk of burnout, and that’s only been multiplied during the pandemic.
When you’re working hard to care for other people, it can be easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself too.
Taking time for self-care is an act of dedicating yourself to ensuring that you’re the best version of yourself when you arrive on the scene to care for your community.
Remember, you won’t be doing your best work if there’s nothing left in the tank, so take the time to refill with these simple acts of self-care.
Practice Breathing Exercises and Meditation
When you show up at a scene, your adrenaline kicks in and helps you respond quickly to the emergency at hand, and that’s great, the issue is that many first responders experience chronic stress and anxiety.
In other words, they rarely switch off that fight-or-flight response, and that’s detrimental to your health and mental health.
Taking time in between calls to practice some breathing exercises, and engaging in longer meditation sessions when you have downtime can help you come back down after handling those high-stress calls.
The great thing about meditation and breathing exercises is that they require no equipment and can be done anywhere.
If you have a smartwatch, most have relaxation apps and guided breathing and there’s an abundance of free and paid meditation and breathing apps you can download to your phone.
Whether you’re waiting in the truck for your next call, or you’ve set aside time to meditate in your home, these practices are great self-care to incorporate into your routine.
Use Exercise and Physiotherapy to Your Advantage
As a first responder, you already know that staying healthy and active is an important part of your job, but instead of it just being another chore you have to do for work, use your exercise as an act of self-care.
The benefits of exercise on mental health are well documented but as a first responder, your job is also very physically demanding.
The support of a physiotherapist like the ones at Mimico Physiotherapy can help you prevent and care for injuries and make sure you’re taking care of your body in the best way possible.
Take a Break with Massage or Acupuncture
Massage is a great tool for stress relief and pain management, both of which are things that first responders can struggle with due to the demands of their job.
Make time to book yourself a massage and allow yourself the time to unwind.
If you don’t enjoy massage or want to try something different, integrative clinics like Intrinsi offer a variety of health services including acupuncture.
Acupuncture also offers you similar benefits to massage with protocols for stress, pain, headaches and even anxiety.
Whatever you choose to do, learn to schedule time to prioritize your health (physical and mental) and let someone else care for you.
Try Talk Therapy
One of the greatest acts of self-care is realizing that you need the support of a professional. Compassion fatigue is common in helping professions like being a first responder.
So, whether you’re experiencing burnout, anxiety, depression or other mental health concerns, speaking with a therapist can be incredibly beneficial.
Being a first responder is one of the most admirable professions, but it’s easy to get caught up in just caring for others.
Learning to incorporate acts of self-care into your routine is important for your mental and physical health.
This can be small acts like practicing breathing exercises between calls, or bigger things like finally booking that appointment to talk to a therapist or taking time out for regular physiotherapy appointments.
Whatever self-care means for you, make sure you’re prioritizing your well-being and not just the well-being of the people you help.