It can be a physically and mentally draining life to spend it trying to save the lives of others and always put someone else’s wellness first. This can take its toll, leading to mental health issues such as First Responder Trauma and PTSD if not addressed.
It’s impossible to be able to live life to the fullest, both on and off the job, if you don’t put your own wellness first and take steps towards self-care.
Check out these wellness tips to help first responders live their best lives.
1. Rest and Relaxation in Putting Wellness First
One of the most important things for your body and mind when trying to put your wellness first is to ensure you are getting enough rest and relaxation.
The Importance of Rest
A lack of proper sleep can have a significant impact on your physical and mental wellbeing:
- Higher risk of accidents
- Lack of concentration
- Mood swings
- Higher risk of diabetes
- Weaker immune system
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Lower sex drive
- Higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders
Lack of sleep can decrease your ability to handle stress and cope with the challenges of the job. First responders see more trauma and despair in a workweek than many people see in their lifetime.
Relaxation is Important too
It isn’t enough to only get rest when you are sleeping. You need to relax and destress during your awake hours too. Everyone has their own way of relaxing.
For some, it is to take their frustrations out on a basketball court, ice rink, soccer field. Others may find a day at the spa or setting time aside to meditate at the end of each day is the most effective way to get over the stresses of the day.
2. Eat Healthy and Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, lack of concentration and lethargic energy levels. Losing just 5% of your hydration level can cause physical and emotional symptoms before you even realize you’re thirsty.
First responders often end up eating meals from fast food places and coffee shops in between calls and don’t always get the most nutritious options to eat. Changing your diet to a healthier meal plan can make a huge difference in your physical and mental ability to handle what life throws at you.
Taking the time to prepare meals and snacks in advance so that you don’t have to make choices on the run is a good way to make small changes that can make a big difference. Your brain and body can cope with the daily demands of being a first responder much more easily if you are providing it with proper fuel.
Cutting up carrot sticks, packing healthy lunches and drink options can help you feel physically energized rather than suffering from a junk food sugar crash partway through the day.
3. Mental Self-Care
Your physical wellbeing is greatly impacted by your mental health and vice versa. As shown in this article by Intiva Health, first responders are at a significantly greater risk of mental health concerns such as PTSD than the general population.
If you want to be at your best physically, you need to make your mental wellbeing a priority. You can’t be there for anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself.
It’s important to have an outlet for your stress and mental anguish. In the past, there has been a societal stigma around mental illness but the reality is that most people will either deal with a mental illness themselves or will have a loved one that does at some point in their lives.
This is particularly true for first responders who deal with more death, despair, and crisis than most. Support programs, psychological treatment, and group therapy can all be beneficial in helping first responders process the pain they witness and endure each day.
4. Support Networks Are a Powerful Tool
A solid and strong support network can make the difference in any first responder’s life. Physical and mental support networks are necessary to reach your full potential and live your best life.
Co-workers can often be a good network for support because they understand the stresses and trauma of dealing with other people’s crises every day. There is an understanding of how it can affect someone and be carried into every area of life even when you’re not on the job.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is rampant for first responders because of the trauma they see and deal with each day. It is critical that first responders know the signs of PTSD and how to cope with the effects of it.
Post-traumatic stress can cause symptoms that not only cause mental anguish but can affect a person’s life physically, financially, and socially.
These symptoms may include:
- Anxiety and aggression
- Flashbacks and nightmares
- Reliving of trauma
- Emotional numbness or oversensitivity
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Exaggerated startle response and hypervigilance
- Depression or diminished interest in activities and interests
- Disconnected emotionally, not socially engaging
- Fear, anger, guilt, or shame
Many loved ones will notice changes in personality, lack of ability to cope and a decline in their relationship when someone is suffering from PTSD.
Family can be more supportive as they learn to understand the impact of post-traumatic stress.
5. Staying Healthy Through Fitness
First responders have to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to care for those they are helping. It will be easier to stay active at work if you keep your body and mind fit during your off time too.
Physical and mental exercise to keep both sharp and alert is important to your overall wellbeing.
Always Put Your Wellness First
If you want to do your best as a first responder, you need to put your own wellness first. The more you take care of yourself, the better you’ll be able to care for others who are looking to you for assistance.
Taking care of your mental and physical health is the best way to live your best life. Be sure to bookmark our site for easy access to all our tips and articles to help you get the most out of your life and be the best you can be.