As a first responder, it’s your job to help those in need. However, what happens when you’re the one who needs help? It’s easy to get burned out by constant exposure to traumatic situations and difficult people. If this sounds like you, don’t worry. You can do things to avoid burnout before it sets in. It starts with the recognition that you are headed toward burnout and making choices that will help you slow down and combat this condition before it encompasses your life. Below are some ideas on how to combat the burnout you might face as a first responder.
Listen to Your Body
It’s easy to push through the day and ignore your body’s warning signs when in a high-stress environment, but this is one of the surest ways to burn out. You may not realize how stressed or burnt out you are until it’s too late. If you feel like you need a break but can’t take one because of work obligations, consider developing an exercise plan that will allow for some physical activity during off hours and make time for rest each night before bedtime.
Don’t let yourself get into the mindset that taking time off means less work gets done. People who actually take their allotted vacation days are more productive overall because they return from their days off refreshed and ready to tackle new challenges with fresh ideas and energy. Therefore, take the time you need to recuperate so you can feel confident when you return to work.
Have a Plan in Place Before Burnout Sets In
Planning ahead is an important part of avoiding burnout. Make a list of the things you want to do, then build your schedule accordingly. Planning is a skill that can be learned and improved upon with practice. You may find it helpful to start by making small plans for minor tasks, then gradually move on to bigger plans. Having a plan in place before burnout sets in will help you from making rash decisions that could lead you down a path that ends with burnout.
Do Something Different
Try something new. It’s important to change your environment and routine regularly, so you don’t get too used to the same old thing. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new at least once a week, it doesn’t have to be anything big. Even if it’s just trying a new restaurant or taking a different route on your way home from work, it will help keep things fresh.
Take breaks from work when possible, especially if you’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed. Whether that means opting for more flexible hours at work or taking some time off for vacation. Giving yourself a mental break will make it easier to refresh when you return.
Self-care is a crucial part of the job. It is important to practice self-care so that you can continue performing at your best. Self-care should not be seen as something that is selfish, but rather something that allows you to give more to others by being fully present and engaged in your work.
Self-care can help with burnout in a number of ways. It can help keep you grounded, which will make it easier for you to handle stressful situations without becoming overwhelmed by them. Additionally, it can keep your mind clear so that you are able to think clearly when under pressure or stress from trying circumstances or dangerous environments where decisions need to be made quickly
Take up a New Hobby
One of the best ways to avoid burnout is to take up a new hobby. This can be anything that interests you, and it doesn’t have to distract you from your job. It’s often better if it doesn’t. Hobbies offer something to do in your free time, which may provide a welcome break from work and help you relax while still making progress on something meaningful. Some hobbies also involve a social element, allowing you to interact with others outside of work while doing something enjoyable and productive.
Get Support From a Counselor or Therapist
For many people, it can be challenging to open up about their feelings and experiences. This is particularly true of first responders who are seeking help with burnout. One way to find support is through a therapist or counselor who specializes in helping people cope with trauma. There are many resources out there. If you’re unsure where to start looking for a good therapist, ask your friends and family if they know anyone who has been through what you are going through. You can also ask them if they would be willing to refer someone else they know has been there before.
Burnout is a serious issue, so it’s important to take care of yourself and learn healthy coping strategies. If you feel like burnout is setting in, speak with your supervisor about getting help from a counselor or therapist. We at Acera can help you combat the burnout you might be feeling as a first responder. If you or someone you know is struggling, whether they are a first responder or in any profession, we can help. Please reach out today so that we can get you more information about the services we offer. We create personalized treatment plans that will be specific to you and your situation. Please call us at (949) 647-4090.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.