First Responders’ Guide to Self-care

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Many people can’t imagine having the job of a first or an emergency responder. Whenever there are traumatic and stressful events that may or may not be causing harm to people, they would be the first person there to face the threats and combat them. If there’s a fire, the fire department would be there as fast as they can. If there’s a shootout, the cops would be there to put the shooter down. If there’s a medical emergency, the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) would be there to patch people up and take them to hospitals for further treatment. It’s clear that communities rely on first responders for their safety and welfare. They trust first responders with their lives.

Thus, there is no doubt that this type of job is incredibly stressful. First responders are always on edge and ready to run to emergency situations at a moment’s notice. This is why it’s also incredibly important for them to ensure that they take care of themselves properly. After everything that they do for the communities, they deserve to look after themselves for a change. If first responders look after themselves, they, too, are looking after their communities.

If you are a first responder, then here’s what you can do to maintain proper self-care.

Have Access to Proper Equipment

The first thing that you, as first responders, should do to lessen the stress that you experience is to ensure that you are properly equipped to do your job. The very essence of your job is to help people. So it can be very stressful to want to help people but not have the proper tools and equipment to do so.

So if you are in the position to acquire proper equipment for your team of first responders, then take advantage of it. Do everything you can to get more funding to support the workers. Invest in the best tools. Install emergency light bars on your vehicles so that your team would always be visible when they are making their way to an emergency situation. Ensure that your EMTs have all of the medical equipment that they need to keep people alive as they make their way to hospitals. See to it that your firefighters are donning uniforms that would properly protect them from fire and smoke.

Maintain a Work-life Balance

A work-life balance is something all professionals across different fields of work strive for. But, arguably, first responders struggle more than others to find this balance. This is because your job is to literally keep people safe. So taking a break while there’s an emergency situation going on can be very difficult. It can cause much stress on the first responders. You may be desperate for food, sleep, and, essentially a mental health break. But people’s lives are on the line so you don’t take breaks.

This is a very common problem among first responders. So you have to do everything that you can to take proper breaks. Engage in less stressful activities that aren’t related to your job at all. Pursue other interests such as painting, playing music, etc. This way, you would be able to recharge and feel refreshed and ready as you take on a new shift at your job. Thus, you’ll even be a bigger help to your community.

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Recognize the Signs of Stress

Burnout is among the top problems that first responders face. Because you aren’t able to take proper breaks, you are forced to work long hours and help as much as you could. But if burnout is left unmanaged, then it would lead to even bigger problems for you and your community. Thus, you need to be able to recognize the signs of burnout. This way, you’ll be able to take proper action — take a rest, step back a bit from the job, and recharge.

Secondary traumatic stress is also something that you need to be on the lookout for. This type of stress is caused by hearing about the traumatic experiences that another individual has experienced. You may not be the one who was affected by extreme natural disasters, violent crimes, or other traumatic experiences. But you can still experience emotional duress. So it’s important to understand if you’re developing this type of stress. And, much like for burnout, you’ll be able to take proper action and take care of yourself.

Being a first responder is a job that not everyone can do. But communities rely on them to keep them safe and sound. So it’s important for you to always look after yourself. If you want to always help your community, then help yourself minimize different types of stress, and stay calm, happy, content.

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