Post Preview: What have you done lately for YOU? These are just some ideas of things Firefighters can do on shift, that require little time and effort, that make a big impact on how you feel.
Firefighters do self care right? Isn’t it just like going to the spa and getting a massage?
Ehhhh… Not quite.
Self Care is for Mental Health.
Stress Management is about taking care of your mind and your body. It’s not related to females only (HELLO MEN, I’M TALKING TO YOU!)
Firefighters put up with a lot of shit (that’s both literal and figurative) so they need to do things that make them feel better. No, I’m not talking mushy gushy stuff here, I’m talking about substance that helps to combat the demons in your head.
We have a choice when it comes to dealing with our thoughts, emotions etc.
We can practice positive behavior (like self care, therapy, stress reduction) or we can fall into negative behavior (bitching, drinking, self destructive behavior).
Taking care of yourself is never a bad thing- in fact it’s really really important!
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Why Stress Management For Firefighters
You need self care so that you can be a better person. We all have rough times and if the bad days outweigh the good then you need to make sure that you take care of yourself.
I know my firefighter needs to work out several times a week and get outside weekly. Why? It’s the stuff that helps him recharge. We also make it a priority to do a lot of family time and visit him at the station.
Picture this, your a first responder and you are constantly giving giving giving to other people. To your patients, to your coworkers, to your family.
What about you? Likely your suffer from sleep exhaustion and care giver fatigue.
Not a good look for a firefighter.
Our Firefighters are in a crisis. I am not a mental health professional, I just know and see that our Fire Family is hurting. Sadly, the numbers are higher than they should ever be. We need to come together and help our thin red line family. No Fireman should feel alone.
We can combat some of the problems by simply helping Firefighters develop mental health awareness- and self care can be an important part of that. (self care isn’t a cure all- please reach out to your EAP or other counselors if you need help- your life is valuable!)
Self Care for Firefighters
Here’s some stress management options that you can do on shift. LISTEN UP: This is just a starting point and can look different for many people.
1.Sleep – I totally said it. Take a nap. Just don’t tell anyone or you might jinx yourself.
2. Journal– Journaling is a useful tool that helps people with brain overload. Simply right down your thoughts, stuff that bothers you, stuff your thankful for- really just write down whatever.
Goals. Trips you want to take. Stuff you want to tell your family in the future.
You can keep a notebook or burn single scraps of paper (HA, because Firefighters love to put out fires).
Just get the noise out of your head so18 you can think clearly.
3. Listen to music- It’s been proven that listening to uplifting music can make you a happier person. Turn up those tunes while you wash the engine or clean the bathrooms.
4. Exercise – Have you ever felt bad mentally after you had a productive workout? Me either.
Set yourself up for success with something that you like to do, and with people that you like. You will feel much better physically and mentally after a good workout pump.
5. Yoga/Stretch/Deep breathing– Youtube is fantastic for ’10 min yoga poses’ that you can do anywhere. What your going to get from yoga is lots of extra oxygen to the brain and body, while helping you stay limber with stretching.
Don’t feel like getting on the floor? Practice 5 mins of deep breathing. It helps with the airpack use. It’s a win/win.
6. Find and practice positive affirmations– Picture this, you’re sitting down with a free moment (it’s rare I know). Perfect time to tell yourself “ that you are a kickass firefighter” “that you are great at your job” “that you have the best job in the world”.
When was the last time you told yourself how fantastic you are? Find what works for you and say them throughout the day. Also set time aside to go over a list of positive things about yourself. Make your brain your partner, not your enemy.
7. Hydrate yourself – You never know when you’ll get the next big fire, or a string of back to back calls. Take the time to take care of your body. Get plenty of fluids so if you run for the next 5 hours you aren’t totally drained. I love this gallon water bottle from Amazon– it makes it super easy to stay hydrated so you don’t really need to keep track.
8. Declutter your space- I know this isn’t entirely dependent on just you, but once you start cleaning you’ll be surprise who else joins in.
Tidy up your work area, your bedroom area and make sure the bathroom is a peaceful place to poop. If you need to talk to your superiors about getting the place organized- then set aside time to do it. Busy rooms make for busy minds.
9. Turn off the TV and put down the phone– What else can you do? Talk, read, cook. You could sit in silence and just learn to be comfortable with your thoughts.
10. Find a quiet place– Firehouses are anything but quiet.
And when you’re running multiple crews from one station, or needing to help other stations with supplies or equipment, it becomes a form of organized chaos.
Find your happy place. Is it the bathroom? A forgotten closet? The top of the Engine? Find somewhere you can go for 10 minutes to just get away from it all, especially when you truly need a break but you have 10 hours left on shift.
11. Talk to someone
Is there one person that you can count on when you need a laugh or a shoulder? Maybe a shift mate that you like to table talk with? Sharing with another person can be a natural stress reliever.
These are just some ideas of things you can do on shift, that require little time and effort, that make a big impact on how you feel. You can also check out these 15 Easy Ways to Practice Self Care, if you want some inspiration for off shift ideas.
Your life is like a cup of water- patients and calls take drop after drop, family takes some sips and before you know it, your cup is dry. Take time on and off shift to ‘fill your cup’ with activities that make you feel better so you can give when it matters the most.
If you or a loved one need help, please reach out to a mental health professional, your EAP, the National Suicide Hotline or check out some other resources for mental health here.