Stress hits us all, at all levels of life and for each of us in different ways for many different things. In the fire service and in life, there is no hiding from stress but it's not how we experience the stress but more of how we handle managing the stress. We all have it in some facet of our life. We have families, a home, a job and because of this stress plays a role in how we take care of these areas. As firefighters and emergency service personnel we experience added stress that comes with the job. I'm not saying other jobs don't have their stressors but in the emergency services, the type of stressors and levels of stress is different. It's been said in this line of work we don't take our work home as opposed to those in certain areas of Corporate America however, all emergency service personnel will take their work home; mentally.
What is their work you ask? It's the calls that stick with us after we get back to the station. Every call we go on, no matter it's severity can play a role in our stress level. Stress affects each of us differently and what affects one may not affect another. Myself personally, I have been known to stress at times over something I've experienced and over time have learned that it's ok to get help for that and speak to someone about it. Without getting into personal experiences of what stress has done, reaching out and getting help in reality does help. I've also learned to find outlets to combat stress levels.
So what is stress?
Well for starters, stress is your body's way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. Once your body senses this, it will go into what we know as "fight or flight" mode to react to the stress. During this response, the body will have an increased heart rate, quick breaths, muscle tightness and a higher blood pressure.
So how do we combat stress? Here are 5 ways to combat and help lower stress levels.
- Just breathe. Slowly inhale through your nose and exhale out your mouth. Try this for about 5 min.
- Decompress. Use a foam roller and massage the tension away.
- Exercise. This helps the brain release feel-good chemicals and by giving your body a chance to practice dealing with stress. This can be done by taking a walk, weight training and yoga just to name a few.
- Listen to music. Studies have shown soothing music can lower blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety
- Reach out. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help and to get help from others.
The next time you feel stress about the job, a coworker, something going on in your life, try these examples and don’t let stress take a hold of your life and service to others.
Until next time; work hard, stay safe & live inspired.
About the Author
NICHOLAS J. HIGGINS is a firefighter with 17 years in the fire service in Piscataway, NJ, a NJ State certified level 2 fire instructor and a State of New Jersey Advocate for the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. A martial arts practitioner and former collegiate athlete in baseball, Nick is also a National Exercise & Sports Trainer Association Battle Ropes Instructor, Functional Fitness Instructor and Nutrition Coach. He holds a B.S. in Accounting from Kean University and is the founder/contributor of the Firehouse Tribune website. Nick has spoken at the 2017 & 2018 Firehouse Expo in Nashville, TN as well as at numerous fire departments within NJ and a guest on fire service podcasts w