The following post was submitted by ILFFPS team member Kyle Matousek
It is no surprise that the job of a firefighter/paramedic is a stressful profession. The daily grind while on shift brings about absolutely no predictions of what you will do during that time. This is why managing stress and being mindful of stress causing circumstances is important to a firefighter. The ILFFPS is an organization that helps fire and EMS service individuals talk about things that may be bothering them. For example, a tough call, family issues, or just about anything they can not get off their mind. The ILFFPS is there when tough times are upon us, which is great and well needed today. In conjunction with that, there are ways to exercise our mind and body to become as prepared as possible for the stresses firefighters face everyday essentially learning to become proactive in the emotional wellness of firefighters.
As I attended the training to become a peer supporter we learn to listen, relate, and validate when talking with individuals on issues they may be dealing with. I realized this is something that does not need to just happen during rough times but also good times. The idea of “making it safe” and establishing an environment that people are willing to talk about anything whether good or bad is essential to managing stress. Simply knowing that there is always a shoulder to lean on is important for any human being. That is one way to help manage stress, develop that atmosphere for everyone to feel comfortable and great things can come. There is also learning to take care of yourself and your own mind and body.
Exercise is one of those things that I really enjoy talking about. I see many benefits to a program the helps people improve their physical well being. One major thing to note though, is that any physical fitness also has a major impact on the mind.
As we know, stress can lead to many chronic illness’s like depression, anxiety, IBS, and even lead to cardiac events. Becoming physically active can help eliminate those threats that stress can cause.
One thing I see very often is the grind that many face day in and day out. The twenty-four hour shift followed by part time work or family. I all too often see many firefighters forget or not have time to take care of themselves. An exercise program is perfect for many in that scenario. Here an hour a day can be established to really take that time to care for you and only you. We all know that a healthy you makes for a great firefighter, a great spouse and mother or father. It also allows for time in the day to forget about that daily grind, forget about the stress at home or anything else. It is a time to relax, take care of yourself and become healthier. In the end taking this one hour a day can have a major impact on your emotional wellness just as much as your physical wellness.
We will never be able to eliminate the stresses we face in the fire service, it is our job to face them and work through them. What we can do is work to learn what those stresses are and how to deal with them. There are simply things we just can not prepare for and that is when help is needed. However, there is a lot we can prepare for and learning to manage the stress we face on a daily basis is very important. A physical activity program is a great way to become proactive in your mental and physical wellness. Any physical activity is great, from walking for thirty minutes, yoga, weightlifting, and biking just to name a few. Get out there, get active and take care of yourself because it will help you to deal with the stresses we face. Together, we can become proactive in taking care of the most valuable asset on any department……YOU.