The Importance Of Self-Care For First Responders Experiencing Burnout
Whether first responders are responding to an aggressive fire or a saving the life of a civilian after an accident, doing their duty to protect the community can be a challenging and rewarding experience. However, the need to protect civilians can wear down even the toughest of warriors. Traumatic events experienced on the job can take their toll on mental health and lead to a wide variety of issues including burnout.
What Is Burnout?
Burnout is described as a feeling of extreme exhaustion or sense of being overwhelmed. It’s caused by periods of tremendous exertion with little to no rest. Burnout is not recognized as a mental health disorder but can lead to other mental health problems, such as depression, PTSD, or substance abuse.
Being on call for long periods of time on critical parts of work, such as search and rescue, evacuation, and other services that help rescue the lives of civilians can take its toll. This intense need of mental and physical power can wear down even the toughest warrior.
Here are some signs of burnout in first responders:
- Sense of helplessness or hopelessness
- Increased cynicism towards others
- Irritability or feelings of being on edge
- Feeling of being emotionally detached
- Poor hygiene or diet
- Decreased satisfaction in life or work
Self-Care and Burnout
Saving civilians from fires and other emergencies can be mentally and physically demanding for first responders who depend on their bodies to do their job. While most first responders do a good job of keeping their physical health maintained, they often neglect to keep a tab on their mental wellness. This often manifests itself in the form of high stress levels as a result of traumatic experiences on the job.
If left unchecked, these symptoms can build up and become something more serious, including substance abuse or even PTSD. To address this, practicing self-care is recommended to help address some of the issues that could manifest in their lives.
How To Practice Self-Care
Helping others is second nature for first responders. However, it’s important to take time to themselves through self-care. Some forms of self-care can include:
- Having some “me time”: When a first responder can take some time for themselves it helps them better relax and recover from a difficult call. It can be done at any time, so whenever they get some down time or are able to get away from the job.
- Spending money on themselves: Treating themselves to an item such as a meal or an article of clothing can be beneficial since it makes them happy.
- Escaping reality: Whether it be watching television or reading, escaping from reality to relax is a welcome part after a busy day.
- Encouraging them to keep a journal or write: If they work in a high-stress environment, such as an EMS or firefighter, encouraging them to write down their thoughts helps to lift off the weight off of their shoulders. It can be as simple as writing about recent experiences and feelings on a piece of paper they can later throw away or keep as part of a journal.
- Spending time with family: Regular time with loved ones is important for optimal mental health. Depending on their role they might not be able to spend as much time as possible with family or friends, but making an effort to spend time with them is sure to make a difference.
Self-Care Is Important For All Warriors
Practicing self-care is important, but so is addressing addiction and PTSD caused by burnout. If you or a loved one is the victim of substance abuse, contact Warriors Heart today. Our substance abuse treatment facility is unique in that it treats only warriors – those who put their lives on the line to keep our lives and freedom safe. Visit our contact page or call us today to learn more.