Creating a Routine for First Responders
First responders continue to embody the spirit of their occupations by carrying a sense of justice, protection, and strength throughout all parts of the day. If a first responder is navigating a high-stress situation or at home, the effects of stress, trauma, or anxiety can continue to affect them. Building personal awareness and routines improve first responders' mindfulness and awareness of their own emotional state.
Some may see these emotions as something to hide or sidestep. However, building awareness of their presence can provide insights that help first responders begin to create a healthy mindset and daily routine. Keeping a rigid routine can be a major resource for first responders.
This allows them to use their tightly curated schedule to practice mindfulness and awareness of their own emotional state each day. This can ultimately lead to a better understanding of one’s personal needs and how trauma, anxiety, or stress can affect their professional performance on duty.
Recognizing the Effects of Trauma and Stress on Daily Life
Building awareness about the effects stress and anxiety have on the daily life of first responders is paramount for employing other pertinent healthy practices. First responders are exposed to a myriad of traumatic experiences due to their unique line of work. Each of these experiences can produce a great deal of stress.
Natural disasters, civil disputes, and treating traumatic injuries are all experiences that can stick in a person’s mind long after the event has concluded. Each first responder’s unique experiences can affect their daily lives.
Stress leading to inconsistent sleep patterns or nightmares can be very common. For some, these nightmares may only seem tangentially related to their experience. They may not make the connection between their sleep issues and stress overtly apparent. However, exhaustion and stress can cause a number of horrific images in one’s mind that can lead to persistent nightmares, insomnia, and invasive thoughts.
The breakdown of trust or feeling one’s tolerance for frustration or annoyance dwindling can also be the result of stress or trauma. Additionally, having difficulty focusing can make it hard to maintain effective communication and often affects decision-making skills.
Combined, this can all create a pessimistic worldview. The effects of PTSD and panic can be significant for first responders. Even lingering stress, anxiety, and trauma can drastically affect one’s mental health.
Constructing an Effective Routine
Routines are a powerful tool for one’s mental health. Not only can their construction add a sense of consistency to one’s life, but the rigid schedule they produce can be used as a tool to be more aware of one’s mental and emotional health. Creating an effective routine can inform how an individual begins their day. Doing so can also keep a person in-tune with their own bodies and emotions.
Effective routines start from the moment one wakes up, with consistent alarms helping to regiment an effective sleep schedule. Keeping one’s morning routine consistent can feel mundane, but also extraordinarily supportive.
Scheduling a time for morning coffee and breakfast, 20 minutes to rest and watch the morning news, two minutes to brush one’s teeth, and finally getting dressed and collecting the tools for the day’s work are all routines. These can be paramount for identifying stress, anxiety, or the effects of trauma that may otherwise go overlooked.
Using a Routine as a Tool for Mindfulness and Awareness
Establishing a routine and having a predictable start to the day can then help an individual incorporate mindfulness practices in their daily lives. For example, an individual may brush their teeth and focus on the feel of the brush in their mouth, the cold of the tile on their feet, or the timing of one’s heartbeat. These can all be ways for an individual to ground themselves in their own bodies early in the day.
Feeling the warmth of the cup of coffee in one’s hands can continue to reinforce these practices all throughout the morning. This ensures that one is constantly mindful of their own body before facing the stresses of the day.
However, it is the deviation from these routines that can be very telling. Setting up these unwavering routines allows an individual to recognize when they are not moving at the same pace in the morning, or if they are feeling different one day. Noticing that some days are more difficult to wake up to one’s alarm, or that one is moving more sluggishly can become an exercise in awareness.
Taking note of these days and writing down one’s feelings and symptoms allows an individual to explore the effects of stress, anxiety, or trauma in their lives. Having a morning routine disrupted by one’s own emotional state can be the first indication that self-care practices are needed. The more consistently these things occur, the more aware an individual will be to look out for developing symptoms and seeking professional help before self-destructive coping strategies occur.