National WHS Coordinator
SELF-CARE FOR FIRE FIGHTERS:
Firefighters need to practice self-care before caring for others
Can you name one machine that doesn’t require maintenance? I can’t. There might be one (I’m a firefighter, not a machinist), but for the most part, all the equipment we operate requires regular maintenance. Fire apparatus requires constant upkeep ranging from oil changes and tire rotation to pump service testing and windscreen wiper replacement. Firefighters wouldn’t ignore servicing their turnout gear or completing regular testing to ensure their CABA Face Piece is sealing properly. However, the one machine that gets overlooked the most is the one reading this article.
The human body is indeed a machine that must be maintained. For good physical health, we must maintain good hygiene standards, abide by recommended dietary and exercise regimes, and have regular physical check-ups to make sure everything is running the way it should.
Self-care is about addressing our mental health, taking note of our stress levels and the toll it takes on our body.
WHAT IS SELF-CARE?
Self-care is more than just brushing our teeth twice a day and getting in a workout. Self-care is about addressing our mental health, taking note of our stress levels and the toll it takes on our body, and taking action to address our stress. In the public safety field, we spend so much time and energy trying to help others that we so easily overlook helping ourselves.
Engaging in self-care is a personal preference aimed at doing something that relieves your stress. For many, exercise provides that release; exercise has proven to increase happiness and relieve stress through the release of endorphins. For others, it may be taking time for a favourite hobby such as fishing, hiking or art.
WHAT’S THE SCIENCE BEHIND SELF-CARE?
According to Harvard Medical School and the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, there is clear evidence that myocardial infarction, stroke, depression, anxiety, and even some disease-prone immune processes, including pro-inflammation, are all common disease denominators that are critically associated with stress.
What this all means is preventative care is critical to your overall health. Before you start a tough workout, don’t you take the time to stretch and warm-up first? If you want to avoid catching a cold, don’t you wash your hands appropriately and avoid being around others who are sick? We all know preventative measures help us avoid injuries and illness, so why don’t we take the time to address what is causing us stress? Although stress is not always preventable, we can all learn how to better manage our stress so it doesn’t cause adverse health effects.
One common term we hear in public safety is “burnout.” This is a result of a lack of self-care. Everyone has ups and downs in their jobs, but burnout occurs from continually bottling up stress and not caring for one’s self.
Just like a fire, burnout and the consequences from high levels of stress can get out of control.
Whether it’s engaging in an outdoor activity, reinvigorating your artistic creativity, or simply taking five minutes each day to sit in a quiet room undisturbed and focus on your breathing, don’t neglect self-care. It’s the ongoing maintenance you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of others.
We always need to be mindful and regularly reminded that it is OK to struggle sometimes, it is OK to ask for help and more can be done to praise our peers who are reaching out for help. Be Brave, Be honest.
Your UFUA is sponsoring two of our members to attend the Fearless conference on the Sunshine Coast. We have been informed by our members that just like the WHS/HSR's in Airservices being run into the ground the Peer Support is in even worse shape.
We asked if Airservices would like to partner with your UFUA to start this process of renewal for our Peer support but we were told, NO. Just like they said NO about having an ARFFS Chaplain for you to call at anytime night or day. As always actions speak louder than words so your UFUA will go it alone.