Self-care can improve your mental and physical health. While a healthy diet and exercise form the backbone of good physical health, self-care and pampering can trigger the relaxation response. Relaxation, in turn, can improve energy levels and prevent chronic stress from further damaging your health. Cultivating a self-care practice is a lot like building a muscle. It takes consistent energy and time but is totally worth it. As you open yourself up to self-care, what it is, and the importance of it, it helps you to reconnect with yourself and what you really want out of your life.
We all know that working in Public Safety can be stressful. That's why self-care is so important, so you don't get burnt out from balancing the demands of your career, family, health, community and maybe even a second job. If juggling the demands has become overwhelming you may be experiencing burnout. The next time you find yourself aggravated by the challenges of the day, consider how taking a moment to count your blessing can pay off, both on and off the job.
- Gratitude can ease the stress of work. According to the American Psychiatric Association, randomized controlled studies have demonstrated that practicing daily gratitude has been found to counter occupational stress, while also leading to decreased feelings of depression and anxiety. Rather than focusing on what went wrong on your last call, reflect with your colleagues on any positive results or shared successes of the response. Focus on the big picture of what drew you to Public Safety in the first place. This may help offset the acute stress you experience after very challenging calls.
- Gratitude boosts resilience in overcoming trauma. As a public safety employee, you are routinely exposed to disaster, loss and chaos in the communities you serve. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0005796705000392) found that war veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Gratitude improves relationships. You know you can't do this job alone. The daily support of your crew, family and friends can be the difference between a long-lasting career in Public Safety or a premature burnout. Routinely expressing gratitude toward your colleagues or spouse creates a chain reaction of positive feelings and reciprocal acts of kindness, which helps to strengthen social bonds.
- Gratitude makes you physically healthier. Research has shown that practicing daily gratitude has been linked to lower blood pressure, lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, and higher rates of disease immunity. One explanation is that focusing on positive emotions helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system or the rest and digest response, which directly counters the body's fight or flight response responsible for increased heart rate, blood pressure, respiration and stress hormones during moments of perceived danger.
- Gratitude helps you sleep. After working a 24 to 48-hour shift, you know how important it is to catch up on you rest. Independent studies published by Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being (https://iaap-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01049.x) and the Journal of Psychosomatic Research (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19073292/)has shown that those who expressed gratitude before bed had more restorative and longer sleep. On your off day, instead of watching television before falling asleep, spend a moment to write down something you are grateful for. Consider sharing it with your partner.