The importance of self care

As follow-up to my last post, which you can read here, I thought I’d talk about some ideas to to help keep ourselves mentally well.  Again, this post isn’t just for First Responders…these are things anyone can (& should do).

We all lead busy lives…and it’s easy to put taking care of ourselves at the bottom of our to-do list.  But there’s only so long that your body will allow this kind of abuse before your physical and mental health start to take a toll

Self care is one of the most important things we need to focus on for both our physical and mental health, and most self care activities have a positive impact on both at the same time.  I’m just going to provide a list of simple things you can do to take care of yourself.  Some require very little time or effort.

  1. Unplug for 5 min, 30 min, 60 min…whatever time you’re able to.  Turn off your phone, TV, computer, everything electronic and just enjoy the break from social media for awhile.
  2. Further to the social media discussion…take out any negative people you “follow” or are “friends” with.  You don’t have to delete them if that’s too harsh, but you can “unfollow” or “mute” them.  There’s enough negativity in our lives without these negative people on social media.
  3. Pause….and take a minute to deep breath.  Yes, a full minute (or more).  It’s amazing how relaxing this is.  I recommend you do this anytime you get that feeling of anxiousness or something overwhelming you.
  4. Walk or run.  I’m not a runner…but people tell me it relaxes them!  For me there’s nothing more relaxing for me than walking my dog at the dog park.  Something about watching the pure joy she has running free there!  The fresh air does me good too!
  5. Laugh!  At anything…a funny comic book, tv show, youtube video, etc.  It’s amazing how good laughter makes you feel.
  6. Perform a random act of kindness.  It doesn’t have to be something huge.  Help someone carry groceries to their car, hold the door for someone, buy someone coffee, the possibilities are endless.
  7. Exercise.  This one is pretty obvious, but much harder to schedule time for.  But it can be anything.  I already mentioned running/walking.  Other ideas…yoga, fitness classes, weightlifting, etc.
  8. Hobbies.  Read a book, play an instrument, knit, paint, etc.  These are great to relax you.

What are some of your go to self care tips?  Please share some of your favourites.

 

 

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First Responder Mental Health

Along with 6 of my colleagues and numerous other First Responders from across Canada, I was fortunate to be able to attend a 5 day train-the-trainer workshop called “Road to Mental Readiness” a few weeks ago.  My employer has recognized the mental health of our employees is just as important as their physical health.  Now I am lucky enough to be able to assist my colleagues in both capacities…as a Peer Fitness Trainer and now as a trainer for the Road to Mental Readiness program.

This week of training was outstanding and our team of 7 trainers are so excited to bring this information to our leaders and our coworkers starting in November.

The course focused on recognition of symptoms and noticing changes in our peers.  For example, Jimmy got cut off in traffic on his way to work this morning.  This is something that angers everyone…but a normal response to this would be to be upset for a few minutes and then get over it and continue with your day.  If Jimmy were to respond to this with anger and rage that lasts all day, or longer, this is unusual and potentially a symptom of a larger concern for his mental health.  For us to recognize that this is not a normal response for Jimmy to have in this situation is one of the first steps in helping him!

There are a lot of stressors in a person’s life which results in the accumulation of stressors that puts us over the edge.  Some examples…financial, family issues (divorce, children, etc), organizational & operational (personality conflicts, high call volume, lack of resources, etc).  As much as we try to leave these stressors at the door when we show up for work, or go on a call, they stick with us and affect how we interact with our patients and respond to certain situations.

It is the responsibility of all of us to Shield – Sense – Support our colleagues.  There are some simple ways that we can accomplish this:
Shield – be available to talk, provide support, provide ideas for self-care (exercise, music, reading, etc),
Sense – know a person’s baseline so that you can notice the change, confidentiality is essential, stop the gossip, encourage early access to care, check up/follow up to see how they are coping.
Support – recognize the symptoms of declining mental health, stop gossip, maintain contact with the person, know your limits and who to go to to get help for the person.

I’m so excited to be on the team that will bring this training to my colleagues!  This information can be used for anyone in any setting (not just First Responders).

One last very important thing that I learned in this course…don’t be afraid to ask.  If you know, or can sense, that someone is struggling…please, please, please open the conversation with them before it is potentially too late.  If they will open up to you even a little bit…remember that this is the first stage of getting help!