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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Laugh! At anything…a funny comic book, tv show, youtube video, etc. It’s amazing how good laughter makes you feel.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Of course we all want to be healthier! Anyone who works shift work knows that we have a higher risk of almost everything (disease, earlier death, etc). So why would anyone choose a job where shift work is the norm?! Because we LOVE it and are passionate about it! So, what can you do to try and minimize the risks? I have a few ideas, some of which I’ve discussed in previous blog posts but are worth mentioning again because they are just that important!
- SLEEP! Sleep is so so so important! Not just after your day shifts and night shifts, but every single time you sleep! You need to strive for 8 hours or as close to it as possible. I discussed some nights shift sleep tips in this blog post.
- FOOD! You need to eat real, whole foods and stay away from packaged foods that are full of sugar and other garbage! See this blog post about sugar, and this blog post about reading food labels.
- WATER! Everyone needs to drink lots and lots of water in a day. I know you’ll need to pee lots, and that sometimes this is not a great thing on a busy shift as a Paramedic (unless you want to have to use your patient’s bathroom!). So, just drink as much as you can! No, Red Bull and coffee and pop don’t count! Here’s a few tips to help you drink more water.
- STRETCH! Even just for 5-10 minutes a day. Before shift, during shift, after shift, at home, whenever! I wrote about a few on duty stretches that are easy to do in uniform here.
- EXERCISE! I don’t care what you do, just get out and move! Run, walk, ride your bike, go to a class at a gym, sign up for a community association program (bonus…these are usually cheaper than at a gym!), anything! Find something you enjoy doing and/or find a buddy to do it with you! You’ll help keep each other accountable!
- LAUGH! I hope you work somewhere as fun as I do and can laugh a TON with your fabulous co-workers! Find some fun friends outside of work that you can have a blast with as well! Go to a funny movie, anything that will make you laugh! It truly is the best medicine!
None of these are new ideas, and I know you’ve all heard them before. But maybe this is the one time you’ll take one of the suggestions to heart and change something in your lifestyle.
Feel free to share any tips you have to become a healthier Medic!
If you’re anything like me…the older you’re getting, the harder you find it to sleep between night shifts or “turn around” after your last night shift. I miss the days when I had to set an alarm to get up for my night shifts!
Here are some of my tips for sleeping during the day (between night shifts):
- If it’s light out when you drive home after a night shift (which it soon will be in Saskatchewan!) wear sunglasses to help block out the bright sunlight.
- Block out all light from your bedroom. Either use an eye mask or install blackout curtains to block the sun.
- Use a white noise machine or fan to help block out sounds from outside if you live on a noisy street….traffic, voices, dogs barking, etc. You could also use ear plugs, but I always found that they would fall out.
- Don’t drink caffeinated beverages a few hours prior to the end of your shift. Some people are more sensitive than others to this, you’ll figure it out by trial and error.
- Avoid the “nightcap”. Alcohol is a bad idea before bed. It may seem to improve sleep initially, but tolerance can quickly develop and can interrupt sleep.
- This should go without saying, but TURN YOUR PHONE OFF! Your non-shift working family and friends do not know or understand your schedule so will text or call you right in the middle of your sleep without fail!
- After my last night shift I know I have to get up by noon in order to be able to “turn around” back to a regular sleep pattern. I also try to schedule a few appointments and/or spend some time outside to keep me busy and awake for the rest of the day. I may go to bed early, but by the next day I’m usually good to go.
- When not working nights and/or you are on days off, try to have a regular sleep pattern (go to bed and wake up at the same time each day) and try to get 8 hours of sleep each night.
If none of these tips work for you and you’re struggling with sleeping either before, during, or after your night shifts I would suggest speaking to your doctor. There are numerous natural sleep aids (herbal teas, supplements, etc.) and prescription sleep aids. But like any supplement or prescription it is important to talk to your health care provider to fully understand their use and potential interactions with other medications you may be taking.
Hopefully some of these can work for you! Happy sleeping!