First responders are placed in stressful situations on a regular basis, and being mentally, physically, and emotionally prepared for the stresses of such a dangerous line of work is essential. However, first responders are still human beings, and their own health is just as important as that of the communities they serve.
Building resilience is essential for maintaining mental health for first responders. Incorporating resilience-building strategies in their daily lives can improve their ability to confront the trials of each morning and continue to serve friends, family, and community in the line of duty.
What Is Resilience?
The topic of resilience is incredibly important for maintaining a healthy mindset. However, it is even more important for those facing crises and stressful situations every day. First responders' emotional health is constantly being pushed, and understanding what resilience is can help to develop pertinent strategies to strengthen oneself in the face of stress.
Resilience is the ability to return one's mental state to a stable homeostasis while avoiding acting on survival instincts or traumatic impulses – a way of returning to a “pre-crisis” mental state. The ability to distance oneself from stresses and trauma is vital for regaining a semblance of agency amidst stressful situations. Doing so can help to hold a healthy mindset while informing one's decision-making skills when returning to work after a high-stress event.
While each individual can benefit from a strong emotional resilience to cope with daily stresses, first responders may find that maintaining a healthy and resilient mind is essential for their continued service. Returning to the field following a traumatic encounter is incredibly taxing. Recovering one's mental health can be difficult as these stresses compound with repeated exposures, further compromising one's ability to tend to their duties effectively.
Incorporating resilience-building strategies and strengthening one's emotional fortitude is paramount for returning to duty with a safe and healthy mind, keeping one's decision-making skills sharp and unclouded. Likewise, building a strong basis of emotional resilience can help keep one's home life separate from the stresses of work. Ensuring workplace stresses stay confined to the professional sphere can improve the quality time that one gets to spend with friends and families off-the-clock, as well.
Incorporating Resilience-Building Strategies in Daily Life
Building emotional resilience to the difficulties first responders face is difficult and takes time. There are no strategies that one can employ that will make one immune to the stresses of work. Keeping up with resilience-building techniques is essential in maintaining a healthy balance in one's life. Incorporating these strategies is beneficial not just for improving one's emotional resilience, but also for coping when stresses become more difficult to cope with.
Education is a powerful tool in any situation. For first responders who are regularly subject to stressful situations in the service of others, being educated about the physical, mental, and emotional risks of one's job can provide a sense of control in the situation. Studying potential sources and symptoms of trauma can empower each individual to be more vigilant of these signs within themselves, opening them up to reaching out for help to cope with daily stresses. These may derive from one's family, friends, or profession.
Continuing to educate oneself on the effects of these situations can also provide a safety net in one's resilience. While the symptoms of stress can be difficult to deal with, knowing the effects can provide a space of understanding, creating a concrete space for one to begin their recovery.
Nutrition and Sleep
Keeping the mind filled with sufficient energy and rest is essential for maintaining a healthy resilience. Stresses have been shown to keep one awake at night. Unhealthy meals and lack of sleep can be actively detrimental to a brain's typical functions.
Ensuring to be rested and healthy can provide the mind with the necessary resources to continue prioritizing one's better judgment. Scheduling healthy meals and a concrete bedtime can allow first responders to prioritize their mental health to cope with the stresses of the workplace.
Resilience Is Personal
Stress and trauma will affect each individual differently, and avoiding comparing oneself to others is essential in determining how one is processing their experiences. Avoiding comparisons in regards to traumatic experiences is essential, however, it can also be practiced regardless of the presence of recent trauma.
Dismissing comparisons in professional ventures, personal accomplishments, or any other aspects is incredibly beneficial. This can help each person practice focusing on themselves rather than concerning themselves with the opinions of others. Avoiding social media and keeping a journal of one's feelings, concerns, and accomplishments can instill the necessary mindset to be aware of one's own needs and be ready to act on them while remaining indifferent to outside influence or opinion.