Updated: Jan 24
If you’re like me you’re stubborn as hell. The first monumental roadblock in your way - is yourself!
Humans, especially First Responders, have this innate ability to always serve outwardly. Often times forgetting or not making any time to serve themselves along the way. We are a selfless bunch. This works against us and to our detriment. We stopped making our own needs a priority a long time ago.
How are you serving yourself and your mental health needs? Your emotional health needs? They physical body, are you getting the right amount of physical exercise and movement? What does your connection with your own spirituality look like? What kind of food are you consuming?
If one or more of these areas are suffering you are definitely not alone. Many of us may struggle with trying to even define what these may look like for ourselves let alone recognizing that we are neglecting our own needs.
How do we know when to get help?
The unfortunate part of this question is that many of us will not take action on this question until it is too late. There is no shame in this, but we tend to believe we are doing better than we are until we are proven otherwise.
When we begin our journey as a First Responder many of us leave our support systems for various postings across Canada or abroad. Wether it is friends, family or the people who make up your community one of the largest issues I see immediately is this first step. This change in support structure can at times actually leaves us vulnerable and unsupported as we begin to tackle an insurmountable amount of stress.
We are met with a demanding career. An incredibly steep learning curve within that career. Highly dynamic calls for service, workplace stress, long shifts, night work, poor nutrition and we haven’t even begun to talk about the challenges that life itself present to us. We also will endure some of the most intense workplace traumatic events humans can experience.
We begin to be consumed with stress within our bodies and we unfortunately no longer have a support system in place to help us “offload” some of that stress accumulation. We may face isolation, lack of community and connection which ultimately quenches our ability to hold meaningful conversations. We store every call, every emotion, every piece of pain within never letting it out. Eventually we are forced to completely numb ourselves out and shut our emotions off in an effort to reduce some of the pain that exists within. We will begin to use unhealthy ways of coping like dark humour, or avoidant types of behaviour like overworking ourselves and always staying “busy”.
What I have learned from my own journey is that the cure to our Mental Health is truly many things; however, the most important aspect of this journey is community, connection and conversation. Buzzwords like resiliency and grounding often get throw around as a cure, but for many both words mean vastly different things to each individual. If we break down community, connection and conversation you will see how eventually see that resiliency and grounding is actually woven within this very structure.
Without community we tend to be alone in our experiences and often times feel unsupported. We may lack social connection and a sense of belonging. Loneliness can compound stress responses or how we process stressful events as we may not have a trusted source to share our experiences with. Isolated and unable to promote healthy connection with others so that we can hold ourselves accountable. We also need to ensure that our emotional well being is being invested in by others, people who care. Community also naturally promotes vulnerability as you get real time feedback from those that are invested in you.
Reflect on this point and ask yourself some challenging questions. Who is along this journey with you. Who is invested in you? Positive relationships with people will help you have a positive relationship with yourself.
Nathan Kapler is a retired RCMP Officer with over fourteen years of Policing experience. He is a First Responder Mental Health advocate and has aimed his sights on promoting mental well being within all first responder working lines. He runs a successful podcast, Ten Thirty Three - Trauma Talk which has already positively impacted many on the journey of their own mental health!