Creating a Space to Detach From Duty
First responder stress is more common than ever. Responders are trained to expect the unexpected and be prepared for dangerous scenarios at any time. While this mentality leads to an ever-vigilant eye while one is in high-stress scenarios, it can also be a major strain on one’s mental and emotional health even while off-duty.
Being able to step back and detach from duty is essential to give the body and mind a break from the stresses confronted in the field as a first responder. Having a dedicated space where one can put aside the stresses of their job and focus on themselves can help them achieve the necessary mental respite and create a healthy work-life balance. Furthermore, it can ensure that one’s mind and body have had a chance to rest and rejuvenate before returning to the field.
The Importance of Stepping Back
It can be difficult for first responders to allow themselves to step back from the feeling that they are constantly on duty. For some, this can be a result of one’s training to always be aware of one’s surroundings and to steel oneself for any kind of encounter. Others may find the idea of relaxation inherently difficult as a result of workplace stresses or trauma.
Having regularly experienced disaster, violence, injury, and other intense, stressful situations, the idea that one can let down their guard may feel extraordinarily dangerous. First responders are in the unique position where not only must they be aware of the worst-case scenario, but they may have also lived through these kinds of situations.
However, being able to detach from work is still vitally important for one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Stress can cause a major strain on the mind, producing feelings of anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, or even paranoia as thoughts of worst-case scenarios arise.
Neglecting to provide the mind with a break from these intense emotions can then impact one’s ability to sleep or tend to other duties. This can create inconsistent sleep schedules, insomnia, or difficulty maintaining focus. These repercussions can even affect relationships, family, or one’s hobbies.
The stress of maintaining this defensive mental and physical stature both on and off the clock can also affect an individual physically. They may experience hypertension that creates aches, pains, or cramps. Headaches can become a consistent discomfort, as well.
Without having a break, these physical and mental symptoms can quickly begin to seep into one’s professional life. Not only can they comprise one’s home routines but also their decision-making skills and reaction time while in the field.
Creating an Effective Space to Step Back
Beginning to step back and detach from one’s job can be a complicated ordeal. It is important to create a space with the conscious intention of truly getting mentally and physically off the clock. Physically clocking out can indicate one’s ability to go home, but does not necessarily mean an individual can mentally check out from the stresses and experiences of the workplace.
The Person Makes the Job
First responders are still people above all else. It is important to remember that while first responders hold incredibly important jobs, they are more than their job title. Having a hobby and personal interests outside of work, in whatever form this may take, is something that is wholly one’s own.
There is no reason to be ashamed of these interests. Activities such as enjoying comic books, working on automobiles, painting, or running a fantasy sports league with friends outside of work can all be great ways to embrace the whole of one’s identity. These hobbies can help one avoid feeling confined to the boundaries of a job title and help create a divide between one’s professional and personal identity.
Announce the Space
Having a dedicated space means that it overtly exists to detach from work. Whether this is a lounge, garage, or one’s bedroom, making it a known space to detach can help quell any work talk that may otherwise come up.
This can also prompt an individual to leave their work phones outside of this space so they cannot be contacted while they are off the clock. This serves as a reminder that this time for oneself is just as important as their time on the job.
Get Creative With It
Giving oneself agency over their space can mean many things. The ability to decorate this space how one wants, control the elements within, and make it as personal and home-like as possible are all important.
Not only can this challenge an individual to explore their own identity outside work, but also to fill this space with enjoyable and comfortable elements that can be actively controlled and adjusted as desired. Posters, seating, televisions, video games, or a personal library are all ways to make this space one’s own without incorporating workplace elements.
Balance Time With Coworkers
Having friends in the workplace can make each day on the job easier, especially if first responders feel a certain level of trust, protection, and understanding between each other. However, spending all of one’s time both on and off the clock with these peers can make it feel like work truly never ends.
Workplace talk, gossip, and stresses are sure to surface. Limiting one’s time doing after-work activities with these friends can help an individual mentally detach from this kind of focus. Doing so can also provide them with more time to explore their own interests and identity outside the workplace.
Building a space that is wholly your own is a skill. At Chateau Recovery, we understand the importance of first responders being able to relax and allow their minds and bodies to recover from the stresses of their unique profession. Our caring staff is prepared to help you curate your own space, all while helping you address feelings of anxiety, depression, or trauma that may have surfaced as a result of your time in the field, as well as any destructive coping strategies employed. Your time with us can be personalized with individual and group therapy, yoga, art, mindfulness, and much more, all backed by a comprehensive education program, relapse prevention, and transition assistance to continue supporting you both in the recovery facility or out in your community. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a staff member about your unique situation, call us today at (435) 222-5225.