You Can Manage Stress by Learning to Relax

According to our research at Call for Backup, only about one-third of first responders often or always take regular breaks during the day and regular days off to relax, and about another one-third say they never or rarely do.  The rest find themselves somewhere in the middle.  The old “all work and no play” adage really is true.  Everyone needs to learn and practice some techniques to initiate the body’s natural relaxation response.

The world is filled with negative influences, and it’s important for those who work in emergency services and often see the worst of what is going on in the world to embrace the influence of having some quiet time to practice remaining calm and composed.  What are some things that we can do during our planned quiet times that will give us the result we need?

  1. Deep breathing.  Listening only to the sounds of your breath can be extremely relaxing. Taking deep breaths in and out calms your mind and your soul. It can work wonders in equipping you to confront challenging days and difficult people.  You may be surprised to see how practicing deep breathing can help you develop a peaceful disposition that aptly tackles the toughest moments.
  2. Daily exercise.  Moderate exercise each day that allows you to practice focused movement without distraction is a great way to relax.  With nothing but your mind and your body to focus on, you can unplug from technology, and focus on your efforts.  As you exercise, your body is producing higher levels of endorphins, your “feel good” hormones, that promote the body’s own relaxation response.
  3. Defined purpose.  Three of life’s greatest questions are: Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?  Being one with your purpose is important in accepting what life throws your way.  When you have a sense of purpose, there are very few things that will be able to rattle your nerves.

Self-Reflection Questions

  1. How do I achieve quiet time when I am constantly on the go?
  2. How else do I develop a calm nature?
  3. What are some of the techniques I use to restore calmness after I am rattled?

If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists about how to manage the stress of work or life in general, feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will be happy to chat with you.  If you are in crisis, please text the keyword BADGE to the National Crisis Text Line where you can be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7/365.  Always free.  Always confidential.

Would you like to help make sure Call for Backup is there for those who reach out to us? Please check out our merchandise in the online store HERE.

You Can Manage Stress by Limiting Alcohol and Caffeine

Enjoying an adult beverage in moderation and having a limited number of caffeinated beverages a day may not be harmful, but excessive consumption of either will lessen your resistance to stress. Our research reveals some frightening results – that nearly half of all first responders say they have a hard time avoiding excessive alcohol and/or caffeine at least some of the time!

Even so-called “tee-totalers” (total abstainers from alcohol) are likely to believe that consumption of alcohol in moderation has little, if any, ill effects on the consumer.  But that is not what we are talking about here.  The relationship between alcoholism and stress is not in dispute, and the relationship between first responders coping with extreme amounts of stress and attempting to find relief through alcohol consumption is not in dispute either.  It is no coincidence that in a study done regarding police suicide, data showed that the majority of the individuals completing a suicide had alcohol in their system at the time.  While a drink, sometimes two, can be okay, excessive drinking can cause a great deal of turmoil in other parts of the individual’s life and contributes to greater amounts of stress in the long run.  It is best to find other methods of coping with stress that do not actually exacerbate the problem.

Police officers and other first responders in many communities get free coffee from local shops, and they supplement that with sodas with high caffeine content as well as energy drinks that give that short burst from both the caffeine and sugar contained in them.  But do you know why you need that boost at all?  Because you have a caffeine addiction.  People addicted to caffeine use some form of it to start their day, then consume more throughout the day as they suffer from caffeine crashes, then they find their sleep disturbed by caffeine, so they are tired in the morning, and they need caffeine to jump-start their day . . . and you can see how the cycle perpetuates.  In the long run, caffeine consumption does not alleviate stress, but contributes to its grip on the life of the individual.

Self-Reflection Questions

  1. Do I drink primarily to be social with others?
  2. Do I drink because I believe it relieves stress?
  3. Am I capable of proving to myself that I can go for extended periods without alcohol or caffeine?

If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists about how to manage the stress of work or life in general, feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will be happy to chat with you.  If you are in crisis, please text the keyword BADGE to the National Crisis Text Line where you can be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7/365.  Always free.  Always confidential.

Would you like to help make sure Call for Backup is there for those who reach out to us? Please check out our merchandise in the online store HERE.

You Can Manage Stress by Avoiding Smoking

A review of the research shows us that overall, about 16-17% of first responders smoke cigarettes. Our own research has about the same result, with an additional 7% of participants stating that they avoid smoking “often,” meaning that they do occasionally smoke.

Research shows that an increase in perceived stress leads to an increase in the dependence on nicotine.  Also, stress levels of smokers are consistently shown to be higher than in nonsmokers.  Mood changes and exacerbation of stress in smokers go hand-in-hand with the daily pattern of smoking cigarettes.  And the greater the level of perceived stress, the more cigarettes per day the person tends to smoke. 

Sadly, because smokers are dependent on nicotine to feel “normal,” it becomes much harder to break that addiction and to get back on the road to better health, physically and emotionally.  During times of stress, smoking a cigarette can feel almost necessary, and because of the physical addiction properties in addition to the social and lifestyle factors associated with smoking, it has been said that quitting smoking can be as difficult as quitting heroin! The physical effects of smoking on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems make it much harder to combat the effects of stress on those same systems. If you smoke, seek help to quit.

Self-Reflection Questions:

  1. Do I smoke to help me cope with uncomfortable situations?
  2. When did I begin to smoke and why?
  3. What am I going to do, today, to kick the habit?

If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists about how to manage the stress of work or life in general, feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will be happy to chat with you.  If you are in crisis, please text the keyword BADGE to the National Crisis Text Line where you can be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7/365.  Always free.  Always confidential.

Would you like to help make sure Call for Backup is there for those who reach out to us? Please check out our merchandise in the online store HERE.

You Can Manage Stress with Healthier Eating

One of the most interesting things we discovered in our recent research is that only about one-third of first responders we surveyed said that they eat healthy and nutritionally balanced meals either “often” or “always.”  At the same time, it’s a sad fact that Americans are beset by “the diseases of civilization” – heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Our diet has a lot to do with that, and if you eat balanced, healthy meals, you are setting yourself up to be more resistant to stress.

Are there some “secrets” to eating healthy?  Depends on who is trying to sell you the latest fad diet plan, I suppose.  But you can save money and become healthier by taking control over your menu and its ingredients instead of relying on restaurants and fast food.  Here are some suggestions for getting started.

  • Vary the menu.  Pick up a new cookbook or watch some cooking videos online.  If variety is what you need, realize that it’s in your hands to control.
  • Shop carefully.  Fill your cart with whole foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  Avoid the junk food aisles.
  • Cut down on added sugar and salt and substitute other seasonings like onions, spices, and herbs.
  • Use healthy fats.  Avoid trans fats and eat appropriate amounts of food containing healthier types of fat.
  • Here’s the real “trick” if there is one: Measure your portions.  You can eat most of the foods you really enjoy as long as you consume them in moderation.

While our peer support specialists are not nutrition experts, we can here to chat with you as you struggle with anything that makes it more difficult for you to manage your stress and to build greater stress resilience.  Just send us a message at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will be happy to connect with you.

Would you like to help make sure Call for Backup is there for those who reach out to us? Please check out our merchandise in the online store HERE.

You Can Manage Stress with Exercise

Would it surprise you to learn (according to our own research) that only about one-quarter of first responder always or often follow a weekly exercise program?

Some people have found how to get through challenging times by pushing themselves to work out. When you exercise, you have an opportunity to zone out, or have something else to focus on so you can take your mind off difficulties.  So aside from the physical benefits of exercise, there are mental benefits as well.

You don’t have to be an athlete or spend a lot of time in the gym in order to exercise.  Perhaps a morning run, or setting a goal for a certain minimum number of steps you will get in is something that could become part of your routine.  Maybe you can join an exercise class that meets a couple of times a week, or take dance lessons, or commit to practice one of the martial arts.  The obvious point here is that doing something is better than doing nothing.  And our research has revealed that 24% of first responders do not follow any type of weekly exercise plan at all!

Starting today, make room in your life for exercise. It can help to bring balance so you can live a better quality life. And you will likely find that your circumstances seem to improve when you make time for taking care of your mind and body.

Self-Reflection Questions:

  1. What options exist for me to exercise – something I believe I can stick with?
  2. How does long-term exercise help in relieving stress?
  3. Are there other activities can I participate in to balance my life and manage stress?

If you’d like to speak to one of our peer support specialists about how to manage the stress of work or life in general, feel free to reach out to us at m.me/callforbackup.org/ and someone will be happy to chat with you.  If you are in crisis, please text the keyword BADGE to the National Crisis Text Line where you can be connected to a trained crisis counselor, 24/7/365.  Always free.  Always confidential.

Would you like to help make sure Call for Backup is there for those who reach out to us? Please check out our merchandise in the online store HERE.